Charlie and Athena Grimm introduced SUV and Hummer stretch luxury limousines to the Alaskan market, which embraced the practical, durable vehicles.
In 2000, Alaskan Charlie Grimm found himself in Las Vegas alongside buddy and business partner Brent Sanders, walking into their first industry convention: the 2000 LCT Show.
“We got the idea to enter the industry because [Brent and I] used to rent limos whenever we went out, because we wanted to be responsible and not drink and drive,” Grimm says. “Some of the cars we rode in were dirty or showed up late, and as a joke I told Brent we should start our own company, and he said that if I felt strongly about it and believed we could make it happen, then we should look into it and see what we could do.” Months of research followed, and the duo decided to take a retail approach that catered to nights-on-the-town and weddings.
Viva Las Vegas
With their plans finalized, Grimm and Brent made the right connections at the LCT Show. “We talked to [a local limousine dealer] and found out he had about 25-30 limousines for sale, so we went to the bank, got a loan, and bought two 6-passenger Town Car stretches and a bus to bring back [to Alaska],” Grimm recalls. It was also in Vegas that Grimm noticed “LVL” emblems on the outside of Las Vegas Limousine’s vehicles, an idea that returned home with him.
After brainstorming ideas for a company name, they settled on BAC Limousine. “BAC” stood for “Brent and Charlie.” “It’s pronounced ‘Bach’, but we wanted three letters so we could put our logos and emblems outside our vehicles like Las Vegas Limousine’s,” Grimm says. “Other companies in Alaska didn’t have their names or logos on the sides of their vehicles and we wanted to make sure we did.”
First in the Last Frontier
After four months in, Grimm realized that a six-passenger was too small for some groups while a bus was too big, so he picked up a 1998 Tiffany 10-passenger Town Car, which allowed him to pursue more work with hotels and bars. “All of a sudden,” Grimm says, “SUV limos got really popular, and nobody in the state had one at the time, and I wanted to be the first.” He bought a 180-inch, 16-passenger Lincoln Navigator stretch in 2002. He appeared on the front page of the local newspaper as the first operator in Alaska to run a stretch SUV.
When the Hummer H2 limo came out, Grimm heard that a competitor planned on being the first to bring one to Alaska. So he quickly made a deal with a Detroit coachbuilder for a 200-inch H2 stretch. He and his wife, Athena, picked it up from Detroit and drove it nonstop back to Anchorage, calling in to radio programs to give live updates. “We stole the competition’s thunder, for the most part,” Grimm says. “BAC became the first to bring the H2 stretch to Alaska. It got a huge two-page article that compared riding in it to being in the finest New York nightclub, and the phone rang off the hook after that.”
After changing the name to BAC Transportation and buying out his partner’s share of the company in 2005, Grimm expanded his fleet to include non-stretched SUVs, a limo bus, motorcoaches, Sprinter vans, and a fully equipped fire truck for a total of 21 vehicles. The fire truck is a hit for children’s birthday parties.
Best and brightest in the industry
Operators should partner with anybody and everybody and attend industry events because “contracts are out there but you need to be the one to go out and get them; don’t expect them to come to you,” Grimm says. “Going to shows is a huge deal because of the face-to-face time you get with the best and brightest in the industry.”
The Facts about BAC Transportation LLC.
The fire engine is a hit for children’s birthday parties.
Location: Anchorage, Alaska
Owners: Charles and Athena Grimm
Main service regions: South Central Alaska, Seward Peninsula, and Northern Alaska
Types of vehicles: Cadillac Escalade, GMC Yukon, Chevrolet Express Van, Freightliner Sprinter Van, Lincoln Town Car, stretch limousine, Lincoln Navigator limousine, Chevrolet Tahoe limousine, H2 Hummer limousine, limo bus, motorcoach, Spartan fire engine
Fleet size: 19 vehicles
Annual revenues: $800,000 to $1.1 million
Information: (907) 222-2600