THIS ENGLISHTOWN COMPANY HAS BEEN CHAUFFEURING GARDEN STATE RESIDENTS FOR 20 YEARS, AND LOOKS FORWARD TO AN EVEN LONGER ROAD
BY JESSICA JONES GORMAN • PHOTOS BY ROBERT NUZZIE
Almost two decades ago, Jay Glick, an accountant by day, started running a small valet parking service at night to earn some extra cash. The business, which he called First Class, handled parking for a variety of restaurants, nightclubs, and banquet facilities throughout New Jersey, and kept Glick on his toes as he hustled to maintain a small staff and build a client roster. Then, one cold, rainy night, as the young entrepreneur was shivering through his shift at a popular nightclub in central New Jersey, he caught sight of a limo driver who looked nice and warm behind the wheel. “I was running around the parking lot, parking car after car, doing what I had to do to build my business and make some sort of profit,” he said. “I saw this limo driver and thought, ‘I’m doing this all wrong.’ ”
So, in February of 1999, Glick took a chance and purchased a slightly used limousine, renting it out of his small valet office. “I was always a car guy at heart, so it was not completely surprising that I became involved in this industry,” Glick said.
The car consistently sold out on a weekly basis, so he purchased two more. Within a few months, he had moved into a bigger and more visible showroom on Route 9 in Marlboro.
“I started looking at other limo companies in the Yellow Pages that were spending thousands on advertising,” he said. “My thought process was to put that money into my location—place myself in a spot with plenty of visibility and park my cars where potential customers could see them.”
The strategy worked: steadily increasing customer demand fueled the small business, and within a year, its fleet had grown from three cars to 14.
“I couldn’t buy new limos fast enough,” he said. “Customers loved them and appreciated our focus on safety and customer satisfaction. The business grew rapidly, and I gradually started branching out, adding unique cars and luxury vans to the fleet.”
Long a car enthusiast, Glick chose cars that impressed him. In early 2000, his was one of the first limo companies in the state to rent stretch trucks; he said he added Escalades, Navigators, and Hummers because they were cars he wanted to ride in himself. In time came a Jaguar, BMW, Range Rover, and Porsche. In 2008, he purchased a pink Hummer and donated the proceeds its rentals to a breast cancer charity.
“I kept adding unique cars because I wanted First Class to be a unique business,” he said. But the focus on retail customers remained.
“I never wanted to cater to big corporations,” Glick said. “First Class has always been about taking care of customers on an individual level. Our regulars who use us for all of their personal events come first. In the transportation business, you have to find your niche, and we learned early on that the individual retail customer was the cornerstone.”
Glick and his wife, Denise, who has been instrumental in the business since its inception, say they currently handle about a thousand weddings annually. And for the past 15 years, theirs has been consistently ranked as one of the top two limo companies in the state.
In 2012, Glick became involved in an entirely different facet of the business when he opened a factory in Springfield, Missouri, where he currently constructs custom Sprinter vans under the name of First Class Customs.
“We are one of the top luxury Sprinter manufacturers, building high end custom Mercedes Sprinter vans for celebrities, CEOs, athletes, and other VIP clientele,” he said, then detailing how he splits his time between New Jersey and Missouri, balancing both aspects of the business. “We basically buy an empty shell, and every individual detail, from the seating to the electronics, is fabricated in my factory. We’re essentially building private jets on wheels, and that business has grown exponentially over the past six years.”
Back in New Jersey, Glick is working on staying relevant in a changing industry.
“Ten years ago, we had six exotic stretches; now we only have two, because the demand has changed,” he said, adding that “young people are steering away from traditional church weddings, instead getting married on location at their banquet hall, and black stretches have become ostentatious and almost taboo in business and corporate entertaining. With that in mind, we have seen an increase in luxury shuttle vehicles, which take wedding guests and the bridal party back and forth to hotel accommodations. We’ve also seen an uptick in shuttle rentals for business and personal events. So we’ve changed the direction of our fleet to meet that demand. Because of my involvement with Sprinter design, we have been fortunate to become an industry expert in that segment.”
“I think the next big thing to impact the industry is self-driving transportation,” he said. “The technology is there for these automatic vehicles, and while the cost is high for the average person, the innovation is almost tailor made for businesses like First Class.”
For now, though, Glick remains focused on continuing to build upon the tenets on which he began his company.
“All of our drivers are hand selected; we are very picky about who we bring on board, for good reason,” he said. “We also constantly update our vehicles and pay strict attention to the safety of every one of our cars. at attention to detail is what made First Class Limousine what it is today, and we will build on that record and reputation in the future.”
First Class Limousine
187 New Jersey Route 9 South, Englishtown
732.972.3200 / ridefirstclass.com