How one red Bank limousine company has flourished for a half-century in a bumpy marketplace
by Jessica Jones-Gorman • Photos By Robert Nuzzie
Roger Somers got his start in the transportation industry in the 1960s, running a taxicab service while still in high school.
“My father Roger and his brother Don became business partners and drove two checkered cabs in the Monmouth County area,” noted his son Eddie Somers, who currently serves as president of Arrow Limousine in Red Bank, the company his dad built more than 50 years ago.
“They would work 16-hour days, driving and dispatching from an eight-by-eight office in the Red Bank train station that barely had room to fit a chair,” said Somers. “They bought their first formal car in 1967, both really hustled to make this business a success, and so two taxis grew very quickly to a whole fleet. ”
In 1970, the brothers bought a larger space on Oakland Street directly across from their original location. The new site was almost an acre of land, one that allowed Arrow to stretch its legs. Fifteen years later, when the company had outgrown that space, it purchased a new facility and moved to its current location on South Pearl Street.
“Today we have approximately 90 vehicles: 65 sedans, five limousines, nine SUVs, and six luxury vans,” said Somers, who, as a kid, would sit on his father’s lap while he dispatched from that original eight-by-eight office. After serving in the Air Force, he began working in the family business in the early 1990s.
“We’re very proud to say that many of our 150 employees have been working here even longer than that,” Somers continued. “We have drivers who have been with us for 20 or 30 years, a mechanic who’s been here for 35. The limo business as a whole may be a roller coaster, with many ups and downs, but this business and the family we’ve built here have remained steady through it all.”
Which is not to say that the operation hasn’t faced its challenges. In August of 2001, Roger and Don had just amicably parted ways, the company’s accounts were strong and diversified, with business so robust that they contemplated pulling their ad from the Yellow Pages…then the attacks of September 11 resulted in a dramatic downward spiral.
“The terrorist attacks had a huge impact on the industry, and business has still not fully recovered,” Somers explained. “Thankfully, our business was strong enough to withstand the challenge.”
Eighty-five percent of Arrow Limousine’s revenue is currently corporate— its fleet of cars hired regularly by firms shuttling employees back and forth to Manhattan office space or to area airports— while the rest of the trips include nights on the town and weddings. And while there remains a strong need for formal livery service, Somers explained that the stretch limousine has all but gone out of style.
“Most of our clients prefer a sedan, because a stretch limo is often too flashy for average trips,” he said. “CEOs do not “Most clients prefer a sedan, because a stretch limo is too flashy for average trips. CEOs just don’t want to arrive in a stretch anymore.” want to arrive in a stretch, but the fancier cars do work for weddings and other special occasions.”
Arrow is also currently phasing out the city-classic Lincoln Town Car, which hasn’t been manufactured since 2011.
“We’re down to about 15 now and have replaced the others with the Hyundai Genesis, which has been a huge hit with clients,” Somers said. “We tried six or seven different cars before finding a comparable sedan to the replace the Lincoln, but after receiving such positive feedback, decided the Hyundai was the way to go.”
Although Roger and his wife Fran now live in Florida, he still consults with his son on business regularly, and Arrow is still family-run. While Eddie serves as company president, his sister, Michelle McConville, is director of marketing, who directs a good deal of her attention to supporting local philanthropies.
“It’s very important for us to give back,” said Emily Peck, director of operations for Arrow. “If we read a sad story in the paper, we immediately start brainstorming about what we can do to get involved. We bring food to the local soup kitchen and even volunteer there on our lunch breaks. If we find out there’s a need for food or blankets at one of our local senior centers, we go out, purchase the items, and bring them down.”
Arrow also participates in school fundraisers and has provided car service for hospital patients in need. It’s a philosophy which Peck says Roger Somers instilled in his employees from the start.
“We’ve been about community since day one,” Peck concluded. “I think the company has grown in leaps and bounds mainly because the client and the community we serve are ranked very high. They say charity starts at home, and those are words the Somers family lives by.”
208 South Pearl Street, Red Bank
732-747-4844 / arrowlimo.com