Tybee rental business forced to close when property is sold

Published: May. 31, 2023 at 10:46 AM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

TYBEE ISLAND, Ga. (WTOC) - The only place on Tybee Island to rent both kayaks and jet skis could be in danger.

A new company has bought the property the business sits on. A spot probably best known as the site Captain Mike’s Dolphin Tours once operated.

But after Captain Mike and his wife Iris passed away, a group called Telfair Capital purchased their property in 2021.

Tybee Jet Ski and Water sports is still in business and sits on that same property. However, Telfair Capital is looking to sell the property and Tybee Jet Ski and Water Sports could lose their spot because of it.

Documents filed in federal court show that Telfair Capital is looking to sell the property at 1 Old Highway 80 to Savannah Bar Pilots, with a closing date set for June 29.

The owner of Tybee Jet Ski and Water Sports, Freddie Barber, says that he’s been told he has until then to vacate the premises, even though his lease isn’t up for another six years.

The documents state that Savannah Bar Pilots, “is not assuming the lease and the property shall be sold free and clear of existing tenants”.

“I’m still in shock since I found out about it, and I’m just trying to keep face, wait on the court, and we’ll see what happens,” Barber said.

Barber says that his business has been on the property since 2009 and that he’s had to fight through a recession and the pandemic, but feels that he just now got to a place where things are flourishing.

The location, he says, is a big part of that success.

“If we have to close down, we’ll have to file bankruptcy. There’s no other location we can go to. We have over 50 kayaks, 10 jet skis, we invested a lot, so we’ve got a lot of debts that we owe and it would be disastrous to get out of here, period,” Barber said.

Barber says that he employs around six people, whose livelihoods all ride on being able to work at Tybee Jet Ski.

The only thing left to do, he says, is let things play out in court.

“We’re going to fight with every drop of blood we’ve got to oppose it. That’s why we signed a contract, a lease agreement, and we’re looking forward to our day in court,” Barber said.

Vacating the property isn’t just going to affect the people that live and work there. There is a colony of feral cats that lives on the property and those that take care of the cats say they fear what will happen to them when the property is sold.

There’s a colony of about nine feral cats that lives between Tybee Jet Ski and Water Sports, and the old Coco’s Bar and Grille.

Barber and former employees of Coco’s take care of the cats. Something they say they’ve done for years.

Kayla Follett was an employee at Coco’s Bar and Grille back when Mike Scarborough’s wife, Iris, owned the property. She says that they both cared for the cats, but Iris in particular would help feed them and raise money to take them to the vet if needed.

Follet says when Mike and Iris passed away a few years ago, she and Barber started taking turns feeding the cats.

She says she’s worried about what might happen to the cats when the property is sold- and feels a responsibility for them after years of taking care of them.

“When I worked here, if I was having a bad day, I could just come outside and sit down with the cats and five minutes later I was okay. You know, they’d sit in my lap, curl up. They were very comforting,” Follett said.

“Ideally, we want to try to keep the cats where they are rather than bring them here, because typically, because when a cat is impounded at the shelter, especially feral cats, they’re euthanized, most likely. Because we can’t care for them here, and there’s no real way to move them around. So, we try to work with some of the groups in Savannah that do cat trapping and TNR and stuff like that, so we’ll try to assess that,” Chatham Animal Services Director Dr. Jake Harper said.

Follett said that she will be reaching out to some of the feral cat outreach groups in the area that Dr. Harper was talking about to see about getting the cats adopted or possibly moving them somewhere else, that she knows that she’ll be able to take care of them.