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Mike Dangerfield (right) pictured here with chauffeur Carl Carter.
It’s a warm summery night in Atlanta. The sky is full of stars and the air is full of music wafting from the mansion. As you draw nearer, you hear voices and laughter mingling with the music. You climb the front steps of Tara, enter the mansion, and hand your wrap to a footman.
As you sip a mint julep and nibble on fried chicken, you can’t resist tapping your toe to the strains of “Dixie” being played by the band. Through the windows, you see other guests enjoying themselves on the veranda. Brightly colored lanterns give the mansion a festive glow.
When the party is over, you thank your hosts, retrieve your wrap, and head back down the steps to your waiting limousine.
Wait a minute. Scarlet and Rhett may have provided their guests with many a luxury, but even all their money couldn’t have obtained the luxury Lincoln now whisking you away to your hotel room. And while we’re at it, Tara wasn’t in Atlanta, but farther north in Clayton County.
Maybe Margaret Mitchell’s Tara was farther north, but Mike Dangerfield’s Tara is right here in Atlanta, and it’s portable so party planners can recreate the Old South wherever in the city they choose.
Carey Special Events is a sister company of Carey Atlanta Limousine Service, and Mike Dangerfield is the man behind them both. While Dangerfield has owned the limousine service for nearly 25 years, the special events company is a new venture but one that bodes well for Dangerfield, as well as Atlanta.
Dangerfield bought out National Theme Party in 1985. To him, it was another way of staying ahead in the increasingly competitive Atlanta limousine market.
“Whenever a client is going to choose a location to have a party, he has to have transportation and, if it’s a really elegant thing, he’s going to need limousines,” explains Dangerfield. By marketing his two companies together, he is able to capture a sizeable amount of the growing convention business in Atlanta, which is fast becoming a convention capital.
The Old South is by no means the only era or area represented by Carey Special Events. According to Dangerfield, the company has over 100 separate party themes.
“The Old South is our heritage, and we don’t want to forget that,” Dangerfield says. “But we also celebrate the New South, which is where we are now.”
Mike Dangerfield has a lot to celebrate. As Atlanta has grown from a sleepy little town with one limousine service, that one limousine services has grown and prospered right along with the city, making Mike Dangerfield a force to be reckoned with in Georgia.
The Early Years
It was 1964 when 20-year old Mike Dangerfield, a native of tiny Moncks Corner, SC. decided to get into the limousine business. Although he was young, he was not altogether inexperienced. He had worked in California for Budget Rent A Car, and owned a rental car franchise in Atlanta. Besides, he had something many beginning operators lack – a mentor.
“I was on a business trip to New York back in May of 1964,” Dangerfield remembers. “I decided it was time I go into the (limousine) business, and the only name I’d ever heard of in the business was Carey Limousine. I found Carey Cadillac Renting Company, walked in off the street, and said, ‘I’m Mike Dangerfield and I’d like to meet Mr. Carey.’ He was gracious enough to see me. He told me about the business and how hard it was – how hard I’d have to struggle.”
J. Paul Carey Jr.’s words didn’t discourage Dangerfield, however. He bought a car from Carey and VIP Limousine Service of Atlanta was born.
Dangerfield remembers the early years as being “quite lean.” Back in the mid-‘60’s the limousine business was thought of as something people used in New York City. It took about ten years of starvation before the business started to grow at any substantial rate.”
In the meantime, Dangerfield kept his car rental franchise to pay the bills. He clung stubbornly to the belief that the limousine business would get better, and his stubbornness paid off in about four years.
In 1986, Carey decided to branch out and become a worldwide network. The kid from Atlanta who had brazenly gone to see Mr. Carey without an appointment was the company’s first choice for a franchise.
Today, Carey international works as a referral system for Carey clients traveling from one city to another. Because Carey affiliates and franchises have a right of exclusivity in their areas, Dangerfield is virtually guaranteed all the business of Carey clients traveling to Atlanta. He also benefits from Carey’s newly implemented chauffeur training program.
Although Carey is known for its service to corporate clients, Dangerfield realized early on that the key to successful limousine operation was flexibility. He took, and continues to take, reservations for weddings, funerals, concerts, and nights out.