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“Five percent of what we do is transportation,” Gary McKeon, the Gales Ferry-based livery’s director of operations, said in an interview last week. “The rest is customer service.”
Take the football fan who flew down to the Alabama-Clemson game in Florida earlier this month.
“We gave her a ride to the airport, got her a hotel reservation in Tampa, set up her transportation to the game and picked her up when she got back,” McKeon said.
Of course, she needed a ticket to the game, a sellout. So McKeon arranged that, too. (“I know people,” he said.)
The whatever-it-takes approach has fueled a surge in Joshua’s business over the last several years, helping it grow after a period of stagnation, according to McKeon. It did a bit more than $3 million in revenue last year and is looking for 30 percent growth this year, “which we will achieve,” McKeon promised.
The company’s 37-vehicle fleet comprises four motor coaches, each with seating for 57 passengers; three “shuttles,” including two vans and a 38-passenger bus; an assortment of airport vans, SUVs and limousines; and three party buses equipped with perimeter seating, coolers, strobe lights, flat-screen TVs and sound systems.
McKeon, 56, a former Ledyard police officer and Mashantucket Pequot fire chief, and his wife Belinda, 57, who together founded the business in 1995, plan to make a capital investment of $750,000 this year, including adding two motor coaches and turning over four limousines. They employ 57 full- and part-time workers, including 50 chauffeurs, a couple of whom they hired after a recent job fair.
Belinda, who serves on the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Gaming Commission, is a sister of Richard “Skip” Hayward, the long-time Mashantucket Pequot chairman who envisioned Foxwoods Resort Casino. While her status as a tribal member qualifies Joshua’s as a “tribally owned business” — which Gary McKeon, who is not a tribal member, said can open some doors — the tribe has no involvement in it.
One of the McKeons’ five children, Joshua, the business’ namesake, works for the company as a supervisor, overseeing maintenance of the Stoddards Wharf Road offices and the vehicle fleet. His wife Stephanie, the general manager, manages the company’s global affiliations.
The McKeons acquired a small limousine company in Clinton that’s given Joshua’s greater access to the Madison-Guilford and New Haven markets, McKeon said.
That hasn’t always been the case.
“A few years ago, I got sick of wondering if I was going to make payroll,” McKeon said. “Everything was doom and gloom. The economy was horrible, and Belinda, Steph and I decided we weren’t going to be affected by it anymore. We decided to find out what we needed to do to bring the company to the next level.”
Gary, Belinda and Stephanie all joined business groups, and Joshua’s brought in a consultant — a limousine industry expert — who took stock and delivered some hard truths.
“She was amazing,” McKeon said. “Belinda met her through her women’s mentoring group. She spent a month here. At times it was painful, but we got some momentum started. Internally, we became laser-focused on everything we do, every single thing.”
The company’s office staff now undergoes training on a monthly basis and chauffeurs do so quarterly.
Gary McKeon, director of operations of Joshua’s Limousine, based in Ledyard, stands amoung his fleet of limousines Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2017. (Tim Martin/The Day)
McKeon said Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun generate about 30 percent of Joshua’s business while runs to the airports in New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island account for another 18 percent. With nearly a week left in January, Joshua’s vehicles had made 150 airport runs during the month.
Uber, the app-based ride-sharing service that’s made a dent in some segments of the livery business, hasn’t affected Joshua’s, which largely serves higher-end clientele, McKeon said. But it could at some point.
“To me, it’s a public safety issue when it comes to their vehicles and who they hire,” he said. “I let a chauffeur go because of a heart condition and now he’s driving for Uber. I’ve had people who failed pre-employment drug testing drive for Uber.
“No checks, no balances, no regulation,” McKeon said. “I don’t know why the legislature doesn’t do something about it.”