Dennis Wisnasky has been driving clients to and from the Lambert-St. Louis International Airport for more than two decades. This month, he is marking the 20th anniversary of his metro-east driving business. He said he has outlasted others, and he has met a number of interesting people along the way. Business writer Will Buss visited Wisnasky’s office last week where he reflected on his years behind the wheel:
Q: When did you start driving people?
A: “I started out in business working for various outfits for the first six or seven years. I started with Metro East (Limousine), whose office at the time was right here (10271 Lincoln Trail in Fairview Heights). In ’91, Chuck North and his wife were getting pretty well up in years and were getting ready to shut it down, and I stopped by to see them and talk about it. I had been looking for an office on this side, and he said ‘In two weeks, this is going to be available.’ So I went on ahead and have been here ever since. We were over in St. Louis in Overland, Mo., for about five years. Our very first (metro-east) office was in Swansea, and they tore all of that out to put that Aldi’s in.”
Q: How long have you been in Fairview Heights?
A: “Since June of ’01.”
Q: So you provide a limousine?
A: “We used to have a limousine at one time for about 10 years, but quite frankly, my son and I didn’t like it. So we just stuck with strictly running people back and forth from the airport. They call us, and we set the time for them by what time they have to be there and so forth and go from there. We also have a contract with the airport.”
Q: How has your competition changed during the last 20 years?
A: “There used to be several outfits around, but after 9/11, most of them shut down. We stayed around. Now, we’re about the only one in the area doing this.”
Q: How many employees do you have?
A: “It’s me and my son and a couple of other drivers who help us out.”
Q: “Is this one of the busiest times of the year for you?
A: “It’s the very busiest time of the year. Thanksgiving Sunday is our busiest day of the year. The airport is a mad house on that day.”
Q: “Where did you work before starting your own business?
A: “I worked for other companies, like Metro East, Bell Star and Alton Limo for about seven years before going off on my own.”
Q: What has kept you in business for so long?
A: “Well, I’ve always enjoyed it. I’ve heard someone say if you find a job you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. I’ve enjoyed this. But I’ve started to look for the day when my son can take over. My health isn’t the best. I’d really just like to get off the road and be at the desk.”
Q: Have you driven for any celebrities or any noteworthy clients over the years?
A: “When we had the limo, we used to drive back and forth to the Alton casino up there. I met Lou Rawls, Donald O’Connor, Shirley Jones and a number of the old doo-wop bands from the ’50s. I drove Steve Forbes around for a couple of days.”
Q: What was he like?
A: “He’s quite an interesting man. I really enjoyed talking to him. I stood and talked with Leslie Nielsen for about a half-hour in the airport one time, and I’ve also talked with Debbie Harry. She was very interesting.”
Q: What have you enjoyed most about your work?
A: “No two days are ever alike. You don’t really get bored. Sometimes, it gets a bit hectic, but you just have take it in stride.”
Name: Dennis Wisnasky
Job: Owner, Town Car Limo at 10271 Lincoln Trail in Fairview Heights
Outlook: “No two days are ever alike. You don’t really get bored. Sometimes, it gets a bit hectic, but you just have take it in stride.”