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Alumnus offers travel alternative

January 27, 2011
Owners of Spar-thai David and Tripiadub Thorin smooth out a wall decal Thursday afternoon at their Albert St. store front. Spar-thai is a laundry and bike taxi hybrid offering students timely cleaning and a cheaper alternative to standard cabs. Matt Hallowell/The State News
Owners of Spar-thai David and Tripiadub Thorin smooth out a wall decal Thursday afternoon at their Albert St. store front. Spar-thai is a laundry and bike taxi hybrid offering students timely cleaning and a cheaper alternative to standard cabs. Matt Hallowell/The State News

After traveling to Thailand and other Asian countries, former Spartan David Thorin has returned to East Lansing with Spar-Thai, a new bike transportation business inspired by what he saw halfway across the world ­­— tuk tuks.

Tuk tuks are canopied, three-wheeled electric bikes designed to carry passengers around a city, Thorin said.

An MSU alumnus, Thorin said he was inspired to bring a modified tuk tuk idea to East Lansing when he noticed the bike presence across MSU considerably was smaller than it was when he attended school.

He said offering an affordable passenger bike system to students, residents and visitors to campus would transport people while giving them an opportunity to appreciate the scenery across campus.

“The idea is that we’ll move people around campus and through the downtown area so they can actually see how pretty Michigan State is instead of zipping through it,” Thorin said.

Spar-Thai also will feature a laundry service so East Lansing residents can call the business to get their laundry picked up, cleaned and delivered via the electric bikes, or come into the location and use the laundromat.

Thorin said Spar-Thai will be open to the public when renovations to the building are finished and when the bikes and laundromat are ready for use.

East Lansing city officials were first notified of Spar-Thai’s move to the 420 Albert St. location, previously occupied by Exclusive Accessories, about a month ago, said Heather Pope, East Lansing’s community development specialist.

Pope said the business likely would bring new, unique services to the downtown that would appeal to students and residents alike.

“Spar-Thai is another positive addition to our downtown business district,” Pope said in an e-mail. “They will be providing a unique transportation service and door-to-door laundry service to the East Lansing community. I think students and residents will find this a great alternative to traveling around East Lansing and on campus.”

Erin Sutton, a first-year graduate student, said she has a parking pass and probably would not utilize the new form of transportation much, but it likely would be useful for students who don’t have
other means of transportation readily available.

“I could see it being a good service for undergraduates who don’t have the ability to park,” Sutton said.

Students who walk or take the bus to get across MSU might appreciate having an additional way to get from place to place, especially in stressful situations, said Lauren Blevins, a criminal justice and psychology sophomore.

“It would be another option if you were running late for a test or something,” Blevins said.

Thorin said he was excited about his new business and hoped students would enjoy the opportunity to get a new view of the city once renovations are complete and the business is open.

“We want the students and the visitors of East Lansing to have a chance to ride around in open-aired bikes and experience something a little different than the current options they have,” Thorin said. “It’s meant to be fun.”

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