JANUARY 2011 LCT: From a Packard to Town Cars, Hy’s spans decades of livery history and modernization as its third-gen now plans for future growth.
WEST HAVEN, Conn. — After 60 years in the chauffeured transportation industry, the Levine family still takes great pride in owning and operating Hy’s Limousine Worldwide, as it enters its diamond anniversary year.
That means the company has functioned one year longer than Queen Elizabeth II has been on the throne, and started when Harry Truman was President.
“The fact that we’ve been able to last and grow throughout down economies, while so many companies haven’t, is something that we’re very proud of,” says Matthew Levine, the third-generation executive vice president and son of Hy’s Limousine owner, Bob Levine. “It really says a lot about my father, and grandfather before him, that [they’ve] been able to sustain such a high quality operation for so long.”
The history behind Hy’s Limousine begins in March 1951 when founder Hyman Levine bought a 1939 Packard Limousine from the Jackson family, the owners of the New Haven Register newspaper in New Haven, Conn., who also were his bosses at the time.
After the Jacksons had donated the Packard’s tires to the World War II war effort, the limousine stayed on cinderblocks until the family eventually asked Hyman if he was interested in buying it.
Named Hy’s Livery Service at first, the company focused mostly on retail business with local weddings and funeral transportation. Most limousine companies at the time were engaging in the same types of business, but as the Connecticut market started to change, so did Hyman’s company.
After the fleet had grown to eight vehicles, Hyman’s son, Robert, joined the family business full-time in 1973 after graduating from college. “He worked in high school, he went to college, and then came back, and started in the business right after college,” Levine says. Robert Levine gradually introduced sedans to the business as well, buying the first one in 1973. Until then, the company had mostly used 7-passenger Cadillac stretch limousines with jump seats. By 1980, the fleet had grown to 28 vehicles.
In 1982, the family decided to move the base of operations to a new facility in West Haven, but just before the grand opening, Hyman Levine passed away in December of that year. Robert has been the owner and operator ever since, and welcomed his son into the business in 2008.
“I grew up in the business, so getting involved was always in the back of my mind,” Levine says. “It was just the right time to give it a shot.”
After graduating from Syracuse University, Matthew moved to New York City and worked as a marketing manager at Rolling Stone magazine for five years before joining his father. “I’ve now been with the company for almost three years,” he says.
Building on success
Hy’s Livery Service officially changed to Hy’s Limousine Worldwide in 2009 to reflect the company’s global affiliate network and the success it’s brought on over the last three years. “It really increased our national and international profile,” Levine says.
Under his father’s leadership, Hy’s Limousine has grown to 100 vehicles, has expanded into an additional office in Hartford, and has purchased a smaller company called Fairfield Executive Livery in Fairfield, Conn.
“These three locations allow us to service the entire state of Connecticut,” Levine says. “Buying different vehicles and giving our clients more options has allowed us to do more group work which, in turn, has increased our fleet.”
Corporate business accounts for half of the company’s services, but private retail business plays a major role as well.
Technology also has been an important factor in modernizing the company, as most of Hy’s Limousine’s marketing efforts are focused online with web ads, SEO, Facebook, and Twitter. “We do a lot of stuff with our local TV station and we’ve run a lot of contests,” Levine says. “We’re trying to do that more and more.”
The company also recently switched out its software for Livery Coach, which has resulted in much time saved for clients and the staff. However, not everyone has been on board with the technology updates, Levine says.
“We’ve had a lot of personnel changes for the better, mainly because of all the changes here in software and technology,” he says. “You need the right technology to really make things work right day-to-day.”
The Levines also have been purchasing Lincoln Town Car Signature Ls, SUVs, and mini coaches, although they are still undecided on what to buy once the Town Cars are no longer made after 2011. “I have a feeling we’ll end up buying Cadillacs and Mercedes,” Levine says.
Working with the community
Over the years, Hy’s Limousine Worldwide has kept a great reputation throughout Connecticut, Levine says. “We have a really great presence in the community.”
The company’s partnership with the local Make-a-Wish Foundation chapter during the last three years has resulted in numerous fulfilled wishes and too many thank-you letters to count. “Usually, most of the children want to be picked up in a limousine, whether it’s going to the mall, or wherever,” Levine says. “They just get a real thrill out of it.”
The company also donates funds to local schools, and provides trips and services for auctions benefiting students in the area. Hy’s is also one of Yale University’s preferred transportation companies and regularly provides services for the institution. CONSTANT ADJUSTMENTS
“The only way to help the company grow, in my opinion, is going out and acquiring new business,” Levine says.
Staying diversified has really helped the business stay profitable during tough economic times, as the revenue does not come from one sector in particular.
Even with so much competition in southern Connecticut and New York, the company continues to set itself apart by staying ahead in technology, and offering the best and newest things available, Levine says. “We’re constantly improving our business through new technology, training, and new vehicles to make sure our clients get the best available product.”
Over the years, the Levine family has carried their motivation through all areas of the company. Everyone takes interest in all of the daily operations, and pays attention to everything that goes on, Levine says.
Being smart with every purchase, keeping an eye on the budget, and avoiding impulse buys also has helped Hy’s Limousine Worldwide stay on track for success during the last 60 years. With a milestone anniversary on their calendar, the Levine family wants to roll out a big PR campaign this year to commemorate the special occasion. Beyond that, it will be business as usual.
“We’ve built an oustanding reputation for a quality, reliable, luxury service and that’s why people keep coming back,” Levine says. “Sixty years means nothing if we don’t continually improve and update.”