My Soapbox: Jack Heekin, co-founder, Unplugged

Jack Heekin and Tom O’Brian, both 24, founded Unplugged in order to bring the Pedal Wagon, a 15-person, 2,100-pound bike to the streets of Cincinnati. During the day, the bike will be used in partnership with American Legacy Tours as one of their attractions. At night the bike can be rented by groups for pub-crawls and other events. With hydraulic brakes and an electric assist to help with hills, the 8’8” tall, 17’ long Wagon makes its inaugural visit downtown during Cincy Beerfest next month, but groups can already reserve the bike online. Soapbox's Evan Wallis caught up with Heekin to find out more.

and O’Brian are already looking at purchasing a second bike and hope to have a third by the end of the year.

Soapbox: How did the idea for Pedal Wagon come about?

Jack Heekin: It started as simply as my dad sending over an image of the bike. In college I started a taxi service that ended up being pretty successful, but that ended in 2010. Tom and I have been friends forever and we always wanted to start a business. After college we put together a bunch of ideas and this one was the best opportunity, and it fit what we wanted to achieve; bringing people and business to downtown and OTR.

SB: How does the bike work?

JH: It’s a 15-person, pedal-powered, rolling party. There are six seats on each side, a three-seat bench in the back and driver in the middle. No one is forced to peddle and it can actually be powered by one person. We’re looking into the opportunity of getting open container permits so people can have drinks from bar to bar. If that happens, we’d have a bartender on board. It also has speakers so people can hook up their iPods or phones. We actually just tested out the speakers and we will not be able to turn them up all the way. It even has a subwoofer.

SB: What do you think Pedal Wagon can bring to Cincinnati?         
A unique experience. During the day it will run tours with American Legacy Tours, and at night we will be doing bar crawls. The tours will be more focused on the tour guide when they are explaining the history of the area, but at night the focus will be more on the people.

They’ll be sitting across from each other and hopefully enjoying themselves. They will also get to try new restaurants and bars. It’s going to bring an excitement to downtown that wasn’t here before. It will also bring together OTR, downtown, the Banks and Northern Kentucky. The city won’t seem as sectional. We can hit all the hot spots in one night.

SB: You already have a lot of partners for Pedal Wagon, how did you go about doing that?

JH: We do a lot of brainstorming. Our fathers have helped us both out and we have great mentors. Really, it’s about being open. The more people we work with, the better it will be. We found a lot of interest for sponsorships. We already have corporations calling us to book the bike for team-building events. There is just a lot of opportunity with the wagon. We have to break each one down and see if it’s a good decision for us. We are working to create partnerships with different bars for the bar crawls so there are drink specials, no cover and no wait to get in.

SB: Why did you decide to partner with American Legacy Tours?

JH: We were brainstorming about partners, and we reached out to a few different groups. ALT responded very quickly. After I talked to Jerry [Gels. co-owner of ALT] we realized that our goals really lined up. They’ve already brought so many people to downtown and that’s exactly what we want to do. We can bring more businesses down here and help them give people a unique experience.

SB: Do you think Cincinnati will respond well to the wagon?

JH: I really think so. We just have to send out the right message. This concept has done very well in many other cities. We do have to tailor it specifically for Cincinnati, but I think once people get on the bike, they’ll have the time of their lives.

Photos by Scott Beseler
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