It is quite obvious driving around major thoroughfares on the Mississippi Gulf Coast that limousine services have grown greatly in number since casinos came to town. But limousine businesses are also popular elsewhere in the state including the Mississippi Delta and Meridian.
“Casinos brought the market in with all your out-of-town travel,” said Shane Langfitt, owner of JDS Limousine Service based in Jackson County. “When people go on vacation, they want another means of transportation other than taxi cabs. People like to splurge a little when on vacation or a honeymoon.”
Langfitt, who is District Three constable for Jackson County, is one of at least two law enforcement officials on the Coast with a limousine business. Because of low salaries for police officers, many take second jobs or have part-time businesses. Langfitt said the limousine service is ideal in that he can set his own schedule.
“Most of the demand is on weekends and holidays, mostly at night,” Langfitt said. “We get a lot of airport calls in the day. That is the biggest thing in the day. I enjoy the people we deal with. You meet a lot of people from a lot of different states. It is enjoyable.”
The business on the Coast is fairly competitive, which Langfitt sees as a good thing for consumers because it helps keep rates down. One issue has been some businesses running their limousines like taxi cabs.
“But I think the City of Biloxi has stopped that,” he said. “If the limousine is run like a cab, they have to put a taxi sign on the top and have metered fares like is required by the law.”
While limos are expected in Biloxi, what about Meridian? Boyd Williams, owner of Extreme Excursions, Meridian, said there is big demand for his Hummer H2 stretch limousine service that provides service throughout the region.
“Our last outing was a 14-hour trip to New Orleans,” Williams said. “We go as far north as Memphis, Tenn., as far south as New Orleans, Atlanta going to the east, and Vicksburg to the west. We aren’t confined by those limitations, but that has been our main routes at this point.”
Riding safely in style
The Hummer stretch limo holds 17 passengers, and is popular to take groups to concerts and ballgames. Williams said it is a really safe way to travel, and particularly people who have had a DUI in the past realize the value of having a professional driver.
“You are not just going in style, but have someone delivering you safely back home after an event where you have been drinking,” Williams said. “We are strict on alcohol and minors. We have zero tolerance for underage drinking. We run a real clean, fun operation.”
A lot of their business is for local birthday parties, particularly for 12- to 17-year- old girls. Proms are also big business for the limousine business, and the prom season runs from the third week of March to the first week in May.
“We do some wedding business,” Williams said. “But our vehicle is more catered to events prior to the wedding — bachelor and bachelorette parties and rehearsal dinners — more so than the actual wedding.”
Young people, in particular, want to be seen in the limo. So it is common to pick up or drop off passengers at school or the mall.
No matter what the event, sometimes passenger say the special ride is the highlight of their event.
“I like making people happy,” Williams said. “When I see people in this vehicle, they are always happy. This is the best part of their night. Even on prom night, the vehicle is better than the prom party itself. Whatever events we go to, the Hummer is the highlight of the evening. And that makes me happy.”
Williams said he doesn’t believe most people realize how affordable a limo is for a large group. For example, for a group of 15 people going to a concert, a 10-hour trip would cost $100 per person. A five-hour trip would be $50 per person.
It does take good route planning as the stretch limos have a poor turn radius. Williams said they need advance notice of where they are going because it takes careful planning.
Something a little different for Delta
One of the state’s largest limousine companies is located in Leland in the Delta. Mark Azlin, co-owner of T&A Limousine Service, said the business was started to service his upscale restaurant, the Bourbon Mall.
“It is something different for the Delta,” said Azlin, whose business has five regular limos, a stretch limo, a Hummer limo and a party bus limo. “People drive by and see all those limos and think I’m crazy.
“Providing limo service from the restaurant has been good for the restaurant. But that isn’t all we do. We travel all over the Delta and all over the state. We do weddings, dances and proms. We do a lot of local funerals. We carry people on church trips, and other organized outings.”
Azlin said the high price of gasoline isn’t really a problem. Insurance costs are the biggest issue. “Liability insurance is very expensive,” he said. “We probably spend more on insurance than car notes. If it wasn’t for that, we might make a little money. That is the biggest drawback of the business.”
Where does T&A find its limo drivers? The company uses 10 different drivers, and most of them find limos relaxing compared to their day jobs. Most drive school buses in the day.
Contact MBJ contributing writer Becky Gillette at firstname.lastname@example.org.