RED BANK – Ed Somers and his sister Michelle McConville fondly recall the story of how their father, Roger, first started Arrow Limousine in Red Bank — which now operates both a formal limo service as well as a new ArrowNow on-demand service — nearly six decades ago.
“Our dad and his brother Donald bought two checkered cabs with funding from their mom and started Yellow Cab Co. in 1960,” McConville said of the leap of faith taken by their father, who was only 14 at the time. Located next to the Red Bank train station, Somers added, “they bought their first Cadillac formal stretch within a few years, started Arrow Limousine, and were basically the only show in town.”
Decades later, the two siblings would join the business, which relocated to South Pearl Street in 1984.
After a stint in the Air Force, “I began working at Arrow in 1989 doing everything from accounting to dispatch and more,” said Somers, 51, a Tinton Falls resident who took over as Arrow’s president four years ago. “I did everything but drive.”
For McConville, 48, a Howell resident, “I worked as a reservationist at the company on and off throughout high school and graduated from Monmouth College with a marketing degree,” she said. After landing her first job in New York City but disliking the commute, “I came back to work at Arrow and became the company’s marketing director in 1995.”
Today, Somers said, “we have 90 cars in our fleet, made up of a mix of Hyundai Genesis models, Lincoln Continentals, Ford Expedition SUVs, Ford Transit vans, which hold up to 14 passengers, and several 120-inch Lincoln MKTs, which hold nine people.”
Kept for only two to three years at the most, “our vehicles are top-of-the-line and feature reclining back seats, lots of leg room, and full control of the amenities in the back,” he said.
It makes for the utmost in clean and comfortable rides, noted Emily Damiano-Peck, long-standing director of operations at Arrow Limousine, whose customers are largely comprised of corporate travelers going to Manhattan or any of the tristate area airports, friends and couples going to dinner or a special event in New York City, and girls’ nights out.
“Though a lot of our trips are within New Jersey, we’ll go anywhere,” Damiano-Peck said, noting that the company’s average 5,000 trips per month have included drives to Florida, Ohio and Maryland.
Based on the values established by father and CEO Roger, 74, who’s largely retired but still plays an advisory role in the business, “customer service is paramount and we take feedback seriously,” McConville said.
In addition to guaranteeing full satisfaction with their service or refunding the cost of the trip (which, for example, can run $130 for a one-way trip from Red Bank to Newark Airport, including all tolls and gratuities), “we also run the Arrow Appreciation Club, through which our customers can earn points towards free trips or upgrades,” she said. “We started that program in the late 1980s and many of our corporate travelers utilize it.”
Among trends, Somers said that the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks changed the industry forever.
“A lot of companies halted corporate travel after that and many of our competitors never recovered,” he said. Though Arrow saw a nearly 20 percent reduction in its own fleet after 9/11, “our stability as a company and vigilant financial planning enabled us to move through that difficult time.”
Among other changes, Somers said limos don’t factor into weddings and proms the way they once did and noted that the recent emergence of ride-share services has created a tendency for the public to make more last-minute reservations rather than planning ahead.
In an industry that’s recently come under media scrutiny at the hands of unqualified or unvetted drivers, “we do extensive background and drug checks, have a rigorous training program, operate a two-to-three-month orientation process for drivers, and require a clean driving record,” said McConville. “We can’t afford to employ anything less than the best, most experienced drivers because our cars are moving billboards.”
According to McConville, Arrow’s investment in its people extends throughout the whole company, from reservationists on up. “With some 140 to 150 employees,” she said, “we’re a family here and we care about and take care of our employees. As a result, many of them have been with us for 20 to 30 years and more.”
Arrow’s dedication to exceptional customer service is one of the many reasons why Middletown resident Tom Tizzio and his family have been loyal customers for over 30 years.
“My father was a former president of AIG and was driven every day by Arrow and my brothers are also executives who are regularly driven to and from New York City,” said Tizzio, 46, owner of a professional services business.
“They’re a great company that’s dedicated to its clients and provides a more personalized service,” Tizzio said. “I’ve had several surgeries in the last few years and they’re very conscientious about helping me in and out of the car, carrying my bags, etc. You just don’t get that kind of service today.”
Currently calling on the company’s new ArrowNow on-demand service to shuttle him to doctors’ and physical therapy appointments and errands some 10 to 15 times a week, “Arrow is a truly professional driving service with friendly and experienced drivers who are vested in the industry,” Tizzio said. “There’s a reason why they’ve been in business for nearly 60 years.”
Though industry regulations are tight, tolls, insurance, congestion pricing, taxes and other costs continue to rise, and the business is highly competitive, Somers, McConville, and Damiano-Peck are excited about the future — especially since introducing their ArrowNow service a year ago.
Competing in the growing ride-share market, “ArrowNow is an on-demand service just for local trips within Monmouth County and you can conveniently book trips by downloading our app or calling us,” Damiano-Peck said. “We’re competitively priced with ride-share services but are fully insured; own, maintain and clean our own cars; can track all of our cars through GPS; and deliver all of the safety, security and other benefits that area residents have come to expect from Arrow.
“We’re optimistic about ArrowNow because it’s what clients are looking for and it’s been gaining a lot of traction, especially with younger customers,” Damiano-Peck said.
“Overall, I love working with the whole family and am so proud of Arrow and the positive relationships we’ve forged with customers and employees,” said Damiano-Peck of her favorite part of her job.
“Our clients are wonderful and we’re excited to be a second-generation business that’s now serving generations of families,” Somers agreed.
“Without our great customers, we wouldn’t be here,” concluded McConville. “We appreciate their support and look forward to continuing to grow and serve them.”
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