Boobers are ubiquitous. From the bars lining South University Avenue to the paths criss-crossing the Diag, it is almost impossible to traverse the University of Michigan campus without seeing one of Boober Tours’ new electric-powered pedicabs zip past on the sidewalk, with the driver shouting, “Boober Tours! It’s the only way!” over blasting music.
“Boober” is a portmanteau of “bike” and “Uber” — the ride-sharing company. Since 2016, Boober Tours in Ann Arbor has provided community members with an alternative way to get around. The company currently has about 15 drivers who drive the pedicabs throughout the city.
But now, Kevin Spangler, founder of Boober Tours, is trying something new. In an interview with The Michigan Daily, Spangler said he wants to take his company to the next level by collaborating with local dispensaries around Ann Arbor.
“We’re also creating another way to arrange tours, which (we’re calling) ‘Doober’,” Spangler said. “So instead of Boober tours, it’s ‘Doober Tours’ because ‘doobies’ is a slang name for marijuana.”
Over the past year, Spangler has been partnering with Wacky Weed Tours, another tour service, to use Boober’s pedicabs and drivers to help visitors experience marijuana culture throughout Ann Arbor. Sarah O’Leary, founder of Wacky Weed Tours and a close friend of Spangler’s, said the tour has been a success due to Michigan’s low marijuana sales tax, which makes it cheaper for Boober passengers to sample a variety of marijuana products. She also touted the density of dispensaries downtown.
O’Leary said everyone in Ann Arbor recognizes Spangler and his Boobers. She said partnering with him was an obvious choice, and she jumped at the opportunity to be a part of his mission to entertain the Ann Arbor community.
“Everyone knows Kevin, and everyone should know Kevin,” O’Leary said. “He and I have similar reasons in terms of purpose. We both want to be successful entrepreneurs, and we want to build community, so we get along great.”
O’Leary said her tour takes participants to some of the oldest marijuana stores in Ann Arbor so they can learn about the history of the weed industry. These historical “high-lights” include Mission Ann Arbor, a dispensary located on South Main Street established in 2010 after Michigan legalized medical marijuana in 2008.
James Klotz, general manager of Mission Ann Arbor, said he loves when customers roll up on a Boober to shop at the store regardless of whether they are part of the Wacky Weed Tour. Klotz said he’s even started offering discounts for Boober riders to encourage his customers to take advantage of the pedicab transportation system.
“We created tickets to promote Boober,” Klotz said. “You can get a (Boober) over here to get a free pre-roll out of it. We feel like it was a good partnership because if people don’t have cars, they can get around through Boober, and that also adds a little bit of extra advertising for us.”
Though collaborating with businesses located downtown has been good for business so far, Spangler said he is also hoping to start working with dispensaries farther from the city center.
“We want to do ‘Doober tours’ outside of downtown because we’re getting new ad deals,” Spangler said. “Instead of moving to another city, I’m expanding our footprint to outer-town, and I’m trying to connect Westside Ann Arbor with Main Street and then, in the future, North Campus.”
Spangler’s vision to help connect different geographical parts of the Ann Arbor area resonated with JARS, a medical and recreational marijuana retailer that opened on the Packard/Platt strip in 2021. JARS is also partnering with Boober Tours, advertising on the pedicabs. In an interview with The Daily, JARS retail manager Katie Howe said advertising on the Boobers provided an effective way for JARS to promote their dispensary to college students who might not otherwise know about them.
“(Boober) provided some exciting brand exposure for us, being able to ride past big groups,” Howe said. “We are in the heart of the residential commercial space and we’re able to marry the two communities together. I like to think of us as a common meeting place, so we can really expand our reach with the help of (advertisements on the) Boober cabins.”
Spangler said he has been sober for years after having struggled with addiction earlier on in life. Though he doesn’t use their products, Spangler said he was still glad to partner with marijuana businesses since they are integral to the small business landscape in Ann Arbor. He also said he plans to use the additional profit these collaborations bring in to help fund his non-profit, “Royal Road,” which focuses on spreading Buddhist ideals related to moral teaching and forgiveness.
“(The business collaborations) are instrumental in helping me save the money,” Spangler said. “My goal is to teach people how to forgive.”
Daily Staff Reporter Chen Lyu can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.