Driving around Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, in November, Angela and Mike Dutton saw some couples taking carriage rides.
They were celebrating their 12th anniversary, so they thought the short, horse-drawn trip would be romantic.
It turned into the beginnings of a new business.
“We’re trying to bring the horse and carriage service to the Grand Strand,” Angela Dutton said, “like they do down in Charleston and Wilmington.”
At 5 p.m. Friday, Southern Enchantment Carriage Service will begin offering rides around the area near Myrtle Beach Mall. After the opening weekend, the couple plans to offer the service six nights each week.
The Duttons also met with Conway City Council on Monday night to discuss a possible agreement that would allow their business to operate in the city. If Conway leaders sign off on their proposal, the rivertown route will take visitors to the Conway marina, beneath the Main Street bridge, by Kingston Presbyterian Church and possibly down Marina Drive to the site of the former Grainger steam plant. They also hope to assist with weddings held at the Peanut Warehouse.
Mike Dutton said the average ride will last about 15 minutes and cost $20. He said drivers in Conway will be required to learn the history of the city and answer specific questions about landmarks and buildings, but only if passengers request that information.
“We’re not going to take a romantic carriage ride and have a driver yack, yack, yack,” he said. “Because if that guy wants to propose, he don’t want to hear about an 1800s building. But some people will. And we’ll give the history when needed. But it’s not a history tour. It’s a romantic ride.”
The couple hopes to eventually have four horses and four carriages: two trotting through the mall and two in Conway.
The Duttons have a day job – they run a construction business – but they’ve owned horses for years and see the carriage service as a unique opportunity.
“We knew a little bit about horses, but let me tell you we jumped into this with both feet,” Angela Dutton said. “Because we feel it could be something major here.”
They already have their first carriage hauler, a 14-year-old Belgian draft horse named Ted.
Conway Planning Director Adam Emrick said Monday’s city council workshop gave the Duttons a chance to lay out their proposal, which must be approved by city council twice before any agreement could be finalized.
“This is more just, ‘Here’s an idea. What do you think?’ ” he said.
After Monday night’s meeting, the Duttons felt confident about their future in Conway.
“It went real well,” Mike Dutton said. “They were very receptive. I think it will be a good asset to the city of Conway. … It is a real romantic draw. People have very little to do that is quiet and old school.”