WEST JEFFERSON-Don’t be surprised if someday soon you hear the distinctive clip-clop of horse hooves in downtown West Jefferson.
That news comes after a pair of local business owners were given the unanimous go ahead by the West Jefferson Board of Aldermen last week to launch a new horse drawn carriage service.
Dressed in throwback duds, James and Debbie Pucci, owner of new West Jefferson business Rabbit Trails, along with son Brandon Pucci, petitioned the board at its Aug. 1 meeting for the right to offer horse drawn carriage rides along Jefferson Avenue.
“We want to bring wagon rides to West Jefferson,” James Pucci said. “We think it would be a great addition to the community especially for bringing outside money here.”
Horse drawn carriage rides are a popular service in towns both large and small across the United States, including New York City, Charleston, SC and Wilmington. The buggies offer customers an elevated view of a city’s sights, sounds and history, all at a leisurely pace.
But the services have also drawn the ire of activists who say the rides are cruel to horses and put both man and animal at increased risk of traffic accidents due to careless or impatient drivers. The world famous carriage ride services of New York City’s Central Park had even been on the chopping block until the city and the services came to an agreement earlier this year that impose new restrictions on the carriage companies.
James Pucci told aldermen that his family has offered carriage rides for years throughout Wilmington, and believed he and Debbie Pucci can start a similar venture in downtown West Jefferson. The aldermen’s action means West Jefferson Town Manager Brantley Price has the authority to issue the Puccis a permit for their ride service.
Price told aldermen he was a little leery about how a Saturday ride service through West Jefferson might impede late morning and early afternoon auto traffic, but Alderman Stephen Shoemaker was optimistic the town could work with the Puccis to hammer out the final details of the arrangement that could work for everyone.
“I think if it can work in New York City, it can work anywhere,” Shoemaker said.
Reach Adam Orr at 336-489-3058.