TAMPA, Fla. – When the Air Force moved Jake Piascik to MacDill Air Force Base in 2001, he knew he had found home.
"We love the Brandon area," he said. "We looked all over, but it was an easy choice. We decided to stay here."
In 2004, Piascik retired from his job as flight engineer with MacDill's 310th Airlift Squadron. He launched Dream Limousine in Brandon right away.
"You always have to be diversified in this economy and have a fallback plan," he said. "So I worked with Planet Airways out of Orlando the first year."
The limo business took off fast. "We don't want to be huge," Piascik said. "And I want to be able to talk to people. But now we're the biggest limo company on the east side of Tampa."
Dream Limousine offers seven unique rides, from a $65,000 Lincoln stretch that seats 12 to the 20-passenger party vehicle, valued at $135,000.
"The first year, we had one limo and did $15,000 in receipts," he said. "Next year was $85,000 with two vehicles; then year three $235,000 with four."
In 2007, Piascik won the Greater Brandon Chamber of Commerce Small Business of the Year award, along with his wife, co-owner Deborah Piascik.
"Debbie is the backbone of the company," he said. "I'm the front man."
In keeping with his commitment to diversification, Piascik recently added to his business with Anytime Taxi.
"We're trying to centralize in this area," he said. "It's a low-cost service, and it's picking up rather well. This year, the economy is hurting us. I'm vice president of the West Florida Livery Association; everybody is hurting."
Piascik grew up around New Haven, Conn., joined the Air Force at 17 and worked as a mechanic at Loring Air Force Base in northern Maine for the next nine years.
"That's where I met Debbie," he said. "She grew up in Caribou, near the base. We were married in 1987."
When the Maine base closed, he cross-trained as an aeronautical engineer, moving to New Jersey and then Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland from 1997 to 2001 after he was selected for the Air Force Two crew.
"We flew Gore and then Cheney," he said.
The prestigious assignment opened doors, and Piascik was able to choose MacDill's 310th Airlift Squadron as his next venture. He closed out his career flying generals in Gulfstreams.
Brandon, he said, provides his family with community and opportunity.
"We're involved in the community a lot; I'm a sucker for kids," he said. "I coached J.V. football at Durant High School and with the Brandon Broncos. Now, we watch our daughter cheerlead at Durant.
"From Day One, we felt welcomed. I get that down-home small feeling. New Jersey and Maryland were not like that."
His other affiliations include the Brandon '86 Rotary, where he's on the board and sergeant at arms; the Neighborhood Advisory Council; the Government Advisory Council; Brandon Leadership class of '07; and support for efforts such as ECHO, the Brandon Outreach Clinic; and the Greater Brandon Community Foundation.
Piascik also brings limousines to schools for FCAT and SAT incentives, as well as fundraisers.
"What you put in is what you get out," he said. "This community gives back to you. The biggest kick for me is showing up at a school in the Hummer stretch and seeing their eyes pop out of their heads. Some children would never ride in a limo; so, why not?
"It's the little things; a little for a lot. With Brandon, it's easy to give back."
One example was this year's honorary mayor's race. Piascik was beaten to the pole by Chick-fil-A's Tammy Holmberg, but the contest netted some $44,000 for charity and made everyone a winner.
He's optimistic about the immediate future. "I think things are already starting to bounce in this community," he said. "Then I almost think - down the road a little - I'd want to jump in and get involved with politics. We just want to see it done in the right way around here."
For fun, Piascik likes Friday night football at Durant and getting away with his wife.
"We've been married 21 years, and we enjoy working together," he said. "We love being involved with the community."
Recently, five of Piascik's vehicles were vandalized; but his response speaks volumes.
"That's why we want to do what we can to make this community better," he said, "so kids like this won't be so desperate."
MEET JAKE PIASCIK
Owner, Dream Limousine
BORN: Waterbury, Conn., 1967
RAISED: West Haven, Conn.
GRADUATED: Joseph Foran High School, West Haven, Conn., 1984
MARRIED: Debbie Holmes, 1987
CHILDREN: Josh, 18; Breana,16
MOVED TO BRANDON: 2001
WORSHIPS AT: Brandon Assembly of God
CONTACT: (813) 662-7300
Source: Tampa Tribune