Going that Extra Mile for Your Special Occasion


Clayton Limousine Service has been family owned and operated since 1917.

Brothers Richard and Thomas go that extra mile to give you that extra professionalism and reliability that is all too rare in service industries today. Whether it's your special wedding, a visit to the city or you're feeling lucky, we will make sure your trip is handled to your satisfaction.

We also specialize in the special sensitive needs of the funeral industry. When you call, you will be pleased with the extra attention we offer to our customers.
The following is taken from a newspaper article by Wayne E. Pollard, Correspondent…
 
When Clayton Limousine Service first opened for business, its vehicle had horsepower – real horsepower.

The Spring Lake-based business, which was founded in 1917 by Jesse Clayton, started with a horse and carriage. Today, the company has 20 cars including limousines, hearses, and sedans. Brothers Rich and Tom Clayton, who now own the business, still work in the same 8000 square-foot building where their grandfather, Jesse, housed his horses.

Clayton Limousine Service today does funeral livery, proms, weddings, wait-and-return trips, and private limousine work, such as driving a customer to see a medical specialist in New York. The company once offered taxi services, but Tom Clayton drove the last cab in 1970.

It's been a family affair all along. When founder Jesse Clayton died at age 51, his wife, Josephine, ran the business. Their son, Walter, was 16 when his father died, and he joined the business after graduating from high school in 1939. He became the owner in the 1950's. Walter Clayton worked as a driver while his wife, Esther, manned the telephones.

And it was not easy work. “You worked your business, and that's all you did,” said his son, Tom. He remembers his father earning about $100.00 per week when he bought the family's home in the 1950's.

In 1992, Walter Clayton passed Clayton Limousine Service on to his two sons, Rich and Tom. He died in 1995.

Rich Clayton grew up knowing that he would join the family business. He started as a driver in 1964 when he was 17 and drove for nearly 20 years.

Tom, however, had promised himself that he would never join the business. “It was just something that never interested me,” he said.

 
He eventually got a job as an investigator with the State Department of Labor. But after 16 years as a government employee, Tom joined his brother and started working full-time for the family business because it was more financially rewarding and opportunities in government were limited. “Never say ‘never,'” said Tom, who then drove for the business eight years.

His experience in government has helped the business; it made it easier for him to sift through government requirements.

Today, Rich, is the President and Tom, is the Vice President. Although the brothers have what they call a “very good” working relationship, there were some bumpy roads, Tom said.

“Because I was a government employee, I saw everything in black and white; private business sees gray. I had to realize that everything wasn't cut and dried,” he said.

Funeral livery is roughly 60 percent of the revenue. The company services 45 funeral homes in New Jersey, from Tuckerton to Middletown. The funeral livery business started in 1954 when Walter Clayton made a deal on a hand shake with the owner of a funeral home.

He soon realized that he could expand this side of the business because many funeral homes did not want to buy, maintain, and pay expenses for their own vehicles. The funeral livery business “became a runaway train,” Tom said.

Private limousine work is the second major revenue generator, and the various other services account for the rest of the revenue.

The biggest challenge for the business, said Tom, is managing costs, such as insurance, gasoline, and maintenance. “You have to keep cost under control and maintain professional service.”
 
The brothers do not take exorbitant salaries, he added. “Money has to go back into the company if it is going to maintain its level of success.”

The Claytons pride themselves on maintaining a personal touch. “People don't get an answering service,” Tom said. Telephones are answered 24 hours a day, either by Rich, Tom, or their long-time employee Peter Casagrande, “We're not absentee owners,” Tom said.

“We attract a lot (of business) just by virtue of the fact that we've been in business so long,” Tom added, “They (customers) don't have the fear that we won't be around when their daughter's wedding comes around in the summer.”

That's a justified fear. “There is a high failure rate,” said Tom Mazza, executive director of the National Limousine Association and co-author of, “Stretching it: The Story of the Limousine.”

New Jersey is home to many limousine companies, he said. Continuity of ownership and good service are the keys to longevity. “It's a relationship business because you are dealing with people in important events,” Mazza said.

“We have an incredibly intelligent clientele,” Tom Clayton said. “They want to go in a clean car that's on time and with knowledgeable driver – and that's what we give them.”