Father and son find new use for old shopping carts

July 29, 2013

Tom McCown, of Sedalia, and his son Marty McCown, of Windsor, are working together to build three-wheeled bicycles complete with removable shopping carts in hopes of helping others.

Tom, 68, is retired from Labor’s Union 663 and from Swisher Mower and Machine Co., Inc., in Warrensburg. He built his first three-wheeled bike in 2007, after seeing folks wheel their groceries away from the grocery store in shopping carts because they had no transportation.

Marty, a youth pastor with Calvary Baptist Church in Windsor, comes over to help his father on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

“I believe in the idea and I believe in helping people,” Marty said. “Because riding is an excellent way to get fit. And it’s a utility bike to haul things and for people that can’t drive a car.”

A drive by Tom’s house at 639 East 5th St., next to the Katy Trail, will give the inquisitive a good view of up to six bike/shopping cart creations, complete with accessories like American flags, cup holders and even a removable hand built trailer.     

“I just love working on these things,” he said. “You’ve never seen the like of people stopping and looking at these bikes.”

“We get about 20 to 30 people a day stopping and asking about these bikes,” Marty added.

The father-son team work together in Tom’s well organized garage. Larry McCown, Tom’s cousin, sometimes helps them paint the bicycles, and friend Andy Gill does all their graphic design work.

Making the bikes is labor intensive, taking at least 24 hours to create. Each bike is made by using parts from three other bikes plus a full sized shopping cart; the parts are then welded together. And where do they get the shopping carts?

“I got them used,” said Tom. “I get some of them from Bing’s and some from Woods.”

“They pay this guy to haul them off and we buy them from him,” Marty said, “They are old ones, they were going to be scrape metal.”

“This is our way of going green,” added Tom.

The bicycles are patent pending and their name came about due to a spiritual revelation.

When asked recently were he came up with the name for his bikes Tom said, “The Guy upstairs. I kept praying, ‘Lord help me pick out a name,’ and on TV a Cadillac commercial came on and I thought Cartillac!”  

“It’s God inspired to help people that need transportation,” Marty said. “I’ve had one lady that bought one of these bikes, she couldn’t drive because of a disability, and she had children that needed to go to the grocery store.”

The bikes hold up to 350-pounds and are a great way to exercise, tote pets, kids, groceries or even laundry, Marty Said. Prices run from $200 to $650. All but one, are 10 to 18 speed; there are also two child sized bikes.

In designing the bike, the McCown’s decided to place two wheels in front and one in back for more stability.

“The three-wheeler with the two wheels in the back, they are very unstable,” Marty said. “We’ve spoken with some elderly people and they thought the two wheels in front were so much more stable.”

They have future plans also.

“We hope to get the bicycles in a country where bicycles are the main transportation like China or India,” Marty said. “We’d like to get a factory going.”

“I love to build a factory,” said Tom. “I know I could do it. Everyday I get up and I’m dreaming and hoping someone will see them.”

Tom and Marty welcome visitors to stop by and take a bike for a spin on the Katy Trail. They also plan to have friends and relatives ride the Cartillac bikes in the 2013 Missouri State Fair parade. The bikes are listed on Craigslist and they will soon have a Facebook page and a website. Those interested in the bicycles may contact Tom and Marty at 826-4870.