When I think of valet parking, scenes from “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” comes to mind, where the character hands the guy a $20 to take special care of his Ferrari, not knowing it will be taken on a joyride all over Chicago.
Somehow, I doubt guys like that are employed at Towne Park.
According to a news article on the Towne Park website, founder Jerry South started his engines by enlisting 10 friends to park cars for the grand opening of the Loews Annapolis Hotel (MD) in 1987. The group hoped to simply get the hotel's attention, so it would exclusively use their parking services. Earning some college money was all good, too.
It was tricks like this that helped South get his valet parking and hospitality staffing agency off the ground. Towne Park just celebrated its 23rd birthday, having gone through two decades of providing parking services to hotels, events and hospitals across the country.
And it appears they're racing ahead of any competition - the homepage shows they've parked nearly 900 million cars since they began in 1988.
Since Towne Park opened its first office in Annapolis, it has grown to accommodate drivers throughout the U.S. In 2009, they created 2,700 new jobs in valet parking, door service, concierges, greeters, transportation and wheelchair escorts.
South had the drive, so to speak, to make Towne Park a success. Though he had some interesting speed bumps along the way (dead bodies in the backseat and loaded firearms left in the front seats, which you can read about in the SmartCEO magazine, where he was named 2010 CEO of the Year), they managed to work to his advantage.
He met his biggest business mentor, Leland Pillsbury, when South lost a VIP's Caddy at one of Pillsbury's events. Pillsbury lent the VIP his own car and had South drive him home. For 45 minutes, Pillsbury told South horror stories from his own business past, and how to problem solve. Pillsbury eventually helped Towne Park build several organic accounts, according to Smart CEO.
For the record, they did find the Caddy - it had been stolen while South was escorting the VIP into the event, before he'd had a chance to hand off the ticket to one of his valets. South happened to be in the bar with the thief, who was overheard bragging about how he'd stolen the car from the hotel and dumped it in a tributary.
South recalled seeing Herb Citrin, the “godfather of valet parking” (he was the founder of Valet Parking Service), at a Los Angeles convention in 1992. At the time, South had no idea where his business was going, but seeing Citrin pull up in a flashy red convertible with his wife, he said to himself, “I’m going to be in valet parking.”
Now, years later, Citrin knows who South is.
At a 2009 National Valet Parking Association meeting, Citrin told him, “I’ve known you 15 years. You are now the world’s largest valet parking operator. It’s time you became the father of valet parking.”
That he is, if presence in over 50 markets, employing more than 6,500 associates and serving hotels like the Ritz-Carlton and Marriott is anything to go by.