Owner and founder of Roadies Local, Rachel O’Holla, moved to Wilmington, North Carolina, in the summer of 2020 to pursue 3 of her favorite things daily – Beaches, Breweries, and Buses. Converting a pale blue, vintage ‘72 VW bus into a comfortable-retro fitted lounge cruiser and naming it Bessie, the entrepreneur now provides locals a truly mobile brewery experience.
By Chris Martin
“I had a friend who was doing something similar with his VW bus at the wineries in Cape May, NJ,” says Rachel O’Holla. “I went on his tour a couple times with friends and had an absolute blast. Thinking about the growth in the beer scene here in Wilmington, I knew the concept would be perfect for locals and tourists to experience the breweries in a unique way.”
Once O'Holla had decided she wanted to start a local brew bus business, she searched for the perfect VW bus. “I spent many hours scouring the internet looking for what I wanted. Then, early one morning, when I couldn’t sleep, I started my usual search, and a new ad had just been posted on Craigslist for a VW bus that was exactly what I had been looking for,” explains the entrepreneur. “I knew in my heart this was my bus, and the next thing I knew, I was on my way to Chesapeake, VA, with a Uhaul trailer and cash in hand. After a few repairs, she was ready to roll.
Since then, Bessie the Bus has had a newly fitted interior to give it a retro- lounge feel, reversing the bench seat and building a table for the center. "I had to have some rust repaired in the original floors, so I took out the original middle front-facing seat and had the entire floor Linexed to protect it. My husband actually built the table top for me and we bolted it down to the floor. I was lucky enough to find the same 3 seater bench seat that is in the back for sale online and put that one in rear-facing. I got custom seat covers so they would match and added some macrame decor in the back. But I wanted to keep the windows bright and open. This way passengers can see out and everyone else can see in. We get a lot of attention on the road," laugh O'Holla.
A Roadies Brewery Tour is private and customizable. Guests are picked up and dropped off in Wilmington or surrounding beaches (Kure Beach, Carolina Beach, & Wrightsville Beach). Each tour consists of 3 stops for the duration of the 5-hour tour, and the bus I can seat up to 7 people. We can go to any brewery within the Cape Fear area while on tour. The local support has been fantastic, and the attention the VW bus gets as we pull in each stop makes it even better. Although my passengers choose their stops, I try to keep with the “drink local” theme for Roadies.
“That is just the regular tour package, but I can also just be your charter for the day. If you want to go to places that aren’t breweries or tour around town longer, just let me know. I can completely tailor your day,” says O’Holla.
“The weekend of the first concert at the new Live Oak Bank Pavilion last summer. I picked up a group of life-long friends at their house, took them to their 3 stops, then dropped them off for the Widespread Panic concert. What a great summer day that was. When we were driving to Riverfront Park in the VW bus, passing all the other people who were tail-gating or walking to the concert, everyone was waving and just so happy to see the VW coming through. We were honking and waving back, and my tour group felt like they were famous getting dropped off at the front entrance.”
O’Holla will be turning her attention to the busy Wilmington wedding scene for the upcoming season. “I can drive the wedding party or just the bride & groom. Regular limos are boring, why not book a Volkswagen Bus? Plus, the photoshoots with Bessie are a bonus,” says O’Holla.
For More Info or to Book Bessie click here.
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Get to Know Rachel...
Favorite place in Wilmington to watch the sunset?
Carolina Beach State Park
3 Tracks on your playlist to sing along to in Bessie?
Tom Petty - Don't Do Me Like That
Favorite snack to munch while driving?
Go to kind of beer?
IPA is my go to.
Carolina Beach. Although I live just OTB, you can find me and Bessie riding around CB most summer days!