AWG Ambassador
Wednesday, October 04, 2023

cd-0313-don-brown-dsc-0019 AJ Thurber at the company headquarters in Johnstown, N.Y. BY SUSAN ROSE


If you’ve attended any recent industry events and association meetings, there’s a good chance you’ve seen Don Brown Bus Sales listed as one of the sponsors or exhibitors. You’ve possibly run into General Sales Manager AJ Thurber or one of Don Brown’s regional sales managers. It’s no accident; in fact, it’s all part of Thurber’s pledge of support to the industry.

Don Brown Bus Sales ( may be one of the newer bus dealers in the industry, but it is a long-established company that has been selling school and commercial buses for over four decades. Thurber joined Don Brown in 2009, the same year it broke into the limousine market. While it probably hasn’t done much for his home life, traveling constantly has helped Thurber build trust within the industry for the new and pre-owned products he sells.

Don Brown’s headquarters is centrally located to serve the Northeast region in Upstate New York, but it is truly a nationwide dealer with its additional sales and service locations in New Jersey, California, and Missouri, and a national warranty and service program providing onsite service, pickup/drop-off, and direct pay for sublet repair. The company’s regional sales managers—who also frequent many industry events and association meetings—are on the ground in their respective territories to assist customers at any time. The experienced team includes Carl Restivo (N.J., Pa., and Ohio), Terry McCart (New England), Brian O’Neill (Va., D.C., and Md.), Richard Springer (metro NYC), Steve Little (La., Mo., Ark., and Texas), and Pat Butler (Calif., Nev., and Ariz.).

“Our entire focus is to give back to those who give to us, and one way we do it is through associations. We really want to support the markets that support us and fuel their growth,” says Thurber.

cd-0313-vitesse-dsc0107-all-outside-mercedes The Vitesse staff at the Connecticut headquarters BY SUSAN ROSE

Shawn Abaspor was a man ahead of his time, and possibly even a trailblazer for how the industry would evolve and adapt in the 21st century. When he founded U.S. Limousine back in 1987, his vision was to be more than just a “limousine” ­company, more than just a local service. U.S. Limousine may have served the New York/New ­Jersey/Connecticut area in its first few years, but Abaspor dreamed bigger. From the very beginning, Abaspor focused on providing high-end transportation services almost exclusively to C-level executives as well as some entertainment professionals and diplomats. U.S. Limousine was corporate from day one, leaving it to its competitors to handle the “traditional” limousine work of the ’80s, such as proms and nights on the town.

Its headquarters in Stamford, Connecticut, just north of New York City, was the ideal hub to cater to the needs of these elite travelers. He added affiliate service in other cities—such as London, Paris, Los Angeles, and San Francisco—soon thereafter, well before the affiliate model was commonplace. When he expanded his offerings to include private air charter services (Royal Falcon Air Charter) in the early 1990s, it catapulted his company into a new league.

The combined operations of U.S. Limousine and Royal Falcon were ­rebranded under the name Vitesse Worldwide in late 2011. The rebranding also included the debut of a second office in Phoenix, making it a bicoastal operation, in addition to its 600-plus affiliates in over 75 countries.

cd-0313-logan-debt-i-s-small BY ROBERT LOGAN


Any reputable economics professor would tell you that the U.S. economy moves in up and down cycles, with some of those downs lasting a very long time like the one we have experienced since 2008. Every cycle has its own set of circumstances and varying degrees of contraction, but the results are generally the same: business slows down because of lower consumer spending. What is particular to chauffeured ground transportation operations during each phase of these economic cycles is what I come to define as the “rising tide” behavior. When the economy was improving and stretch SUVs were becoming popular in the early 2000s, a few operators found success with these types of vehicles and everyone else rushed to buy them, which created a “rising tide” of positive economic activity. The converse is also true. When the economy began to stagnate, many of these same livery operations who still held notes on these expensive and trendy vehicles suffered because of a major lack of rental activity and lower hourly fees, thereby creating an “ebbing tide” of economic misery. Many operators stuck it out with vehicles that sat parked, hemorrhaging money, hoping that the tide would change if they just waited long enough. Smarter operators saw the writing on the wall and started paring down their fleets when demand dropped, maximizing resale value and leaving them with the essential vehicles that fit their needs at the time.

cd-0313-busse-is-training RANDI BUSSE


When my clients ask me that, I respond, “What if you don’t train them ... and they stay?” Try this little test: If I propose that your best customer speak with any one of your employees, and you can’t respond positively that you trust each and every employee to handle this call properly, your company may be overdue for training.

Your front-line employees often provide the first impression a prospective customer has with your company. Are you relying on them to make a good impression? If you don’t trust them, you probably shouldn’t. You need to be confident they’ll do the right thing when it comes to taking care of customers—from your most demanding to your best.