As printed in the 27 East — http://www.27east.com
Hampton Publication: The Southampton Press
With the economy at the lowest levels in years, many of the region’s entrepreneurs are anxiously waiting to see whether business will pick up in the summer. But one businessman says that a deal he’s just made will ensure his company does well this season.
Last week, the Hampton Luxury Liner bus company, based in Bridgehampton, finalized a deal to merge with Classic Coach, a bus company in Bohemia. As part of the deal, said Mike Schoolman, vice president of sales and marketing for Classic Coach, his company invested several million dollars to purchase six new buses that will offer additional features, including additional leg room, wireless internet and satellite television. The new buses are expected to hit the road in March.
“The timing going into the summer season was perfect, and we felt that we needed to merge with a company to bring on new products,” said Hampton Luxury Liner owner Gregory Slayton, referring to the new line of buses. Mr. Slayton owns the business with his brother, Douglas Slayton, and partner James Maglaras.
Neither Mr. Schoolman nor Mr. Slayton would go into detail about the financial side of the deal, but Mr. Slayton did note that Hampton Luxury Liner closed its offices and bus depot on Butter Lane in Bridgehampton last week, and will be operating under its original name out of Classic Coach’s Bohemia offices.
There will be no increase in the fares, which are currently $36 each way from the Hamptons to Manhattan, Mr. Slayton said.
Both Mr. Schoolman and Mr. Slayton said they are pleased with the merger and excited about the upcoming season. Despite the economy, Mr. Slayton said that he expects the company to do well this summer.
“I’ve been running this business for nine years, and by just speaking to people it seems that for some reason people are not looking to go away. They want to stay and travel locally, and by us providing this service at $36, our customer base will increase,” Mr. Slayton said.
Hampton Luxury Liner generally does about 50,000 round trips from the city to the Hamptons each year, and has a loyal customer base, according to Mr. Slayton. It was that aspect of the company that attracted Classic Coach to the merger, Mr. Schoolman said.
“We felt that Hampton Luxury Liner had a great business model but that we could enhance it,” he said.
Mr. Schoolman added that Hampton Luxury Liner had done a good job of establishing itself in a niche market, and that Classic Coach has always been interested in those kinds of markets. Classic Coach’s main business is to provide charter services to organizations going to locations throughout New York and across the country. A smaller portion of the business is devoted to providing $3 rides to Atlantic City from Manhattan, which he said is a niche market that they have done well with.
Mr. Schoolman said that merger talks began in November. “It wasn’t really a formalized process,” he said when asked which company approached the other. “We kind of knew each other in the industry.”
As for what will happen next, Mr. Slayton said that he might look into expanding the business to the North Fork, and to provide high-end charters for private parties, depending on what happens this year.
“It’s time to give the [Hampton] Jitney a run for their money,” he said, referring to the firm’s Southampton-based primary competitor.
The Hampton Jitney averages about 40-60 daily trips back and forth to Manhattan throughout the year and has 50 buses in its fleet, said Jennifer Friebely, the marketing and relations director for Hampton Jitney. She noted that the Jitney covers the entire East End, including the North Fork, and has just begun a new service that will take customers from lower Manhattan to the Hamptons on the weekends.
"We've been around for 35 years and pride ourselves on never cancelling a trip," she said. "We've seen our competition come and go, and it keeps us doing the best that we can."
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