Lancer Insurance
Monday, June 24, 2024

BY ROB SMENTEK

When burgeoning limousine operator James Andrus purchased his company in early 1964, he had no way of knowing he would soon find himself in the center of a pop culture maelstrom still discussed today.

In September 1964, a Milwaukee area booking agent was making the rounds, calling funeral homes looking for limousines to transport a major musical act. That group was none other than the Beatles, on tour in America for the first time.

Andrus LimousineL to R: Steven, Jane, and Jon Andrus “The funeral homes in the region didn’t have limousines, so they said to call my dad,” says Andrus Limousine Vice President Jon Andrus. “At the time, he had several limos in the fleet and hearses as well. When you get to say, you drove the Beatles, there’s no one bigger—to this day. My dad talked about that until he passed in 2020.”

Now, Andrus Limousine is still going strong, celebrating its milestone 60th year in business with second generation leadership. With a diverse set of clients ranging from airport runs and retail to corporate and VIPs, siblings Jon, Steven, and Jane Andrus move them all, backed with an expansive fleet.

“When you talk about the who’s who of Milwaukee, they’re the ones who are in the backseat of our cars,” says President Jane Andrus. “It speaks volumes that the relationships with our customers doesn’t just go back 5-10 years, but 25-40, or more. In fact, one private retail customer dates to our first year in business. We’re proud of that.”

In January 2024, Andrus Limousine formally celebrated their 60th anniversary with a dinner party for its staff, including chauffeurs who have been with the company 10 years or more.

“This was our way of thanking them for all they do,” says Jon. “Because if it’s not for your employees, you don’t have anything. They make or break you. It’s like the old saying: you’re only as good as your last ride. Jane, Steven, and I could be the greatest people in the world but if the chauffeur does a bad run, you’re doing damage control. We make sure that our chauffeurs’ morale is always up.”

Vice President Steven Andrus believes that the company’s success comes from the groundwork laid by their father, who ran his business under the axiom that slow and steady wins the race.

“My father was a straight shooter—very ethical and humble. Mom and dad came from very humble beginnings but built this company slowly but surely. And we were always taught not to rush things; it’s steady as you go.”

Jon remembers his father working at home in the days long before desktop dispatch and reservation software. That experience was key to attracting him to the industry.

Andrus LimousineCompany fleet “I distinctly remember when I was a little kid, sitting at the table doing homework and my father would be there with his big book writing up his runs and working on trip sheets. It was fascinating to watch my father do that. As I got older, I started washing cars and rising through the ranks. I was 18 when I knew what I wanted to do and that was to be part of the company.”

Andrus Limousine is still growing—in some nontraditional ways. Always working closely with funeral homes—the company employs licensed funeral directors on staff—the Andrus siblings spearheaded an effort to add a crematory to the company’s services two years ago.

“We’re definitely a well-diversified company,” admits Jon. “We do a lot of hearse rentals for area funeral homes. With employee costs going through the roof, we also have a staff of licensed funeral directors on staff that can go in and do a removal from a hospital or house for transport to a funeral home.”

Andrus LimousineA look back at Andrus Limousine’s hearse fleet The diversity extends to the company’s fleet, which includes a range of vehicles from sedans and SUVs to Sprinters, and, yes, a stretch limousine, which Jon says remains popular with his clients.

“Believe it or not—and I told this to operators at the CD/NLA Show in Vegas—the stretch limousine is not dead. The limo is alive and well. We have a 2019 MKT and we do so well with our stretch limousine. If two couples want to go out, they don’t want a Sprinter or an SUV... they want the Hollywood option. They want to feel like a million bucks pulling into that restaurant.”

By delivering that level of service to happy clients, the Andrus family has found a great amount of joy in the work they do, and they maintain a high-level of honor in being among the very few 60-year companies in the space.

“It’s an ever-changing industry,” says Steven. “Every day is something different. Tomorrow’s not going to be the same as today.”

“It’s so rewarding and a lot of fun,” says Jon. “It’s a lot of work, and it can be stressful... from finding chauffeurs and the right equipment—but at the end of the day, there’s no more rewarding business to be in.”

“There’s a great sense of pride in being around so long,” adds Jane.   [CD0524]