Abbott's Limousine & Livery Service
“Is this a taxi?” That’s the question that launched Abbott’s Limousine and Livery Service back in 1965. Don Abbott had recently lost his leg in a construction accident, and was looking for a way to provide for his growing family. He had gone down to the town park to people-watch and think about his options. When a visitor to the Berkshires stepped off the Greyhound bus and asked Abbott if his car was a taxi, he recognized an opportunity. “He came right home to discuss it with our mother, and they went down the next day to register our car with the town,” says Paul Abbott, Don’s son.
Four of Don and Jacqueline’s children—Donna, Paul, Becky and Maryellen—now own the business that their parents started, which will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2015. Paul says, “We take pride in our business and always try to live up to mom and dad’s original mission.” Donna explains that the two tenets at the center of the operation are, “The customer’s always first in everything” and “Never say no!” “I think it’s that attitude that made us successful,” says Paul, who also credits his father with instilling a strong work ethic in the Abbott children.
The siblings grew up participating in the business—answering phones, fixing cars, and keeping track of reservations. Now, each of the four owners has found his or her niche in daily operations. Paul has done the mechanical work since he was a kid, when they used to have only one car (and no garage!) “I learned to treat it like Nascar,” he says. “Paul used to drop whatever he was doing and fix the car right in the driveway. It was crazy!” says Donna, whose main charge is cleaning cars “morning noon and night.” But her brother is quick to point out that Donna is also the maven of comfort, matching each client with the appropriate car and reading material.
When Paul came back home after college he got the idea to “to venture into longer distance jobs, spiff up the cars a little bit,” and to start doing business with some of the big corporations nearby. “That’s when we started getting requests for sedans instead of station wagons. And that’s where the idea of the limousine-look started. We had never realized that sitting in the back of a station wagon was not as comfortable as sitting in a sedan!” Since then, Abbott’s fleet has grown to include 14 vehicles, and they pride themselves on always finding the right vehicle for every occasion. And though GE may no longer be in its Berkshire heyday, Abbott’s has formed relationships with some of the new economic drivers in the region, including Cranwell.
Donna Abbott is a tiny bit nostalgic for the Lee where she grew up, when “somebody was always awake” and Joe’s Diner was mobbed at lunchtime. “It was a boom town,” says Paul. Things have changed, but “Lee is still plugging along like it always has,” and the Abbotts have a bright outlook for the future of the town that they love, a future that combines conservation and smart development. “It’s ultra-important to preserve our mountain views and fresh air, but at the same time have opportunities for new businesses that support a high quality of life.”
It is this commitment to the Berkshires that led Abbotts to start accepting BerkShares. “It’s a great way to stimulate the local economy,” says Paul. “When we take in BerkShares we can go and spend them in all these creative places that we may not know about otherwise. It’s always exciting to find where you’re going to spend your next BerkShares.”