Photo by Clyde Noel
Al Fortado, operations manager for LeGrande Affaire Limousine Service, said his company has come a long way in 24 years.
"We started with one limousine and within six months we had 30," he said.
So how does Fortado explain LeGrande's sudden success?
"As a team, we know how to provide unparalleled quality service for special events," he said.
Beyond special events, LeGrande routinely provides transportation to and from the San Francisco and San Jose airports.
LeGrande - which has offices in Santa Clara, San Jose, San Francisco, Walnut Creek and Petaluma - has a staff of 25 chauffeurs to drive its fleet of 30 limousines.
Having so many limos works to the customers' advantage, according to Robert Pope, LeGrande's vice president of marketing.
"Because we have a large fleet, our chauffeur will wait for a client at an airport no matter how delayed the plane," he said. "Smaller companies without the equipment can't offer that service. Because of commitments, they may take off and leave the client stranded. We would never do that because every chauffeur is equipped with an Nextel cellular telephone with nationwide service."
Pope said that LeGrande is also particular about the drivers it hires and the way they treat clients.
"All our chauffeurs are dressed in tuxedos. Both men and women chauffeurs go through one and a half months of certification training before they get behind the wheel," Pope said. "Every one of our customers is a VIP, and the chauffeur presents a bouquet of long- stemmed roses. Depending on the purpose of the trip, they also receive a keepsake photo and champagne. For underage VIPs we provide sparkling apple cider."
LeGrande was founded by Phillip Restivo, a 15-year veteran of the limousine industry. As CEO/president, he's noticed that clients in the Bay Area have diverse requests that are as different as night and day.
The company has spent more than $2 million for 2000-model vehicles.
LeGrande offers a collection of 20-passenger Hummers, a 16-passenger Lincoln Navigator, a 40-foot long, 14-passenger Lincoln Town Car (with a Jacuzzi) and a 10-passenger, S500 Mercedes-Benz, along with smaller limousines.
"No other limousine company can match that," Restivo said.
Pope said the secret to limousine service is an expedient and accurate reservation department.
"Everything is computerized," he said. "Once we get a reservation, they are confirmed immediately either by mail, telephone, or fax to assure the accuracy of the reservation. The client's chauffeur will call the client the evening before the reservation and confirm and make arrangements for the pick- up."
LeGrande also takes clients to spots all over the Bay Area. This includes trips to Napa Valley, Carmel and other tourist attractions.
"We love to have clients that use the limousine for the very first time. They turn into a different person," Pope said. "It's like Cinderella riding in the Royal Coach until the end of the trip. Unfortunately, they go back to their pumpkin."
Pope said during the NFL season, many of the San Francisco 49ers use the service. Radio and television personalities use LeGrande's services and many of the CEOs in the valley employ them for meetings outside the San Jose area.
For more information, call LeGrande at (408) 269-LIMO.