Charles Wisniewski has plenty to reminisce over as he celebrates this year’s 25th anniversary of his family’s ownership of Teddy’s Transportation System of Norwalk, Conn.
Wisniewski was 16 when his father Ted called a family meeting to discuss buying one of two enterprises: a small, nondescript hotel in Leadville, Colo., or a struggling limousine company in Fairfield County, Conn.
The fact that the limousine company was only a mile away from the Wisniewski home and that it came with an Avis Rent-A -Car franchise and a fleet of taxis should have made it a shoo in, but it didn’t.
It wasn’t until Ted Wisniewski mentioned the name of the limo service, Teddy’s, that the family demanded he make the purchase.
Two years later, Charles Wisniewski left home to pursue a business degree at the University of Connecticut. There, he would gain some of the skills necessary to help run the family business.
After graduating, Wisniewski served as vice president at Teddy’s. Among other duties, he was responsible for the pricing and promotion of the company’s services and products. His family elected him president after his father died in 1995.
Wisniewski’s mother, Shelly, currently serves as senior partner while his brother and sister, Teddy and Linda Bento, are partners.
Teddy’s has a fleet of 18 sedans, four stretch limousines and a Turtle ‘Top, 10-passenger executive transporter. The company has 35 to 40 full- and part-time employees.
Wisniewski credits Teddy’s with being among the first to seek changes in limousine interiors from coachbuilders.
“We had issues with the two-seat and center console design,” says Wisniewski. “A lot of our business is not cocktail related; it’s funeral homes and transporting families back and forth to the airport.”
Teddy’s approached Empire, a coachbuilder at the time, and had its workers remove the center console from two Lincoln stretches to build a true six-passenger limousine. Soon after, the six-passenger became an industry trend.
Throughout the past 25 years, Teddy’s has been an industrious entity in the livery business.
In the mid 19805s, a driver at Teddy’s was ticketed and fined by the New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission for transporting a client into Connecticut. “The fine was hefty and we didn’t think we owed it because Teddy’s had permits from the Interstate Commerce Commission to pick up clients in New York and transport them into Connecticut," Wisniewski says.
As legal fees drove up the costs even higher, Wisniewski encouraged his father to form the Limousine Operators of Connecticut to represent the area’s operators.
The association was not successful at beating the fine but subsequent actions by the LOC proved its value to the industry. In August 1988, the association set up a sting to combat illegal operators in Connecticut.
“We arranged it so that five [illegal] limousine companies [using non-permit plates] would pick up people we knew and drive them to Bridgeport Airport and drop them off at 15-minute intervals,” Wisniewski says. When the drivers arrived at the airport, agents of the Connecticut Department of Transportation, the Department of Motor Vehicles, the State Police, and the press greeted them.
“The chauffeurs were immediately arrested for transporting passengers without proper permits, their illegal license plates were confiscated, and their cars towed,” he recalls.
Wisniewski shares credit for many of these accomplishments with his father but has made a name for himself through his own contributions to the livery industry.
He is a five-year member of the National Limousine Association Board of Directors and served as president in 1993. He also helped write the language for the Connecticut General Assembly to upgrade the laws governing livery vehicles.