Entrepreneur Kenny Griswold Is Riding His Revamped Ricksha All the Way to the Bank

updated 11/07/1983 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/07/1983 AT 01:00 AM EST

They may look like a cross between a ricksha and a souped-up trike, but to their biggest booster, Kenny Griswold, they represent "the Rolls-Royce of bicycles." Actually, they're pedicabs, the latest in transportation-for-hire, and they are equipped with everything from cassette decks to an under-the-seat compartment Griswold calls "the wine cellar."

Griswold, 29, is founder and president of the American Pedicab Corporation, which manufactures the 150-pound vehicles, as well as president of First Class Pedicab, which leases them to enterprising, young and, most important, fit drivers, or rather, pedalers.

Griswold's first major leasing facility opened last March in L.A.'s Westwood Village, and he now has controlling interest in branches in Denver, Washington, D.C. and 17 other cities. Griswold, who grew up in Greenwich, Conn. and attended the University of Wyoming in Laramie on a wrestling scholarship, is now maneuvering to get pedicabs into the opening ceremony of next summer's Olympics.

"I've tried to find something wrong with the pedicab, but I can't," says Griswold, who lives in Manhattan Beach. "It's energy-conscious and pollution-free; it gets you in shape, and it's employment for youth." Yet when a friend, impressed with Hong Kong's rickshas, first proposed the tricycles to Griswold as a business venture for traffic-clogged communities, his reaction was a dubious "I'm not going to pedal one." In August 1979, however, the outfit got rolling when he and two partners purchased 12 vehicles (at $2,300 apiece) that had been on exhibition at the Seattle world's fair. When demand quickly outstripped supply, Griswold (who eventually bought out his partners) began to manufacture his own vehicles. He leases the pedicabs (at $20 per seven-hour shift) to drivers. The drivers, in turn, set their own rates ($4 is the going rate for a 15-minute trip in Westwood).

Pedicabs have had benefits for Griswold beyond the $3.5 million he expects to bring in this year. For example, he credits a pedicab with his two-year romance with figure skater and actress Lynn-Holly Johnson. "I had one pick us up from the restaurant on our first date," says Griswold. "It wasn't my cologne; it was the pedicab that did it.

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