MACHIAS, Maine — Machias may not be the first place you think of for a limousine service, but Down East Limousine is thriving.
Owner Dean McGuire is busy just about every weekend, taking Machias residents to concerts in Bangor, out to dinner or helping them celebrate birthdays, anniversaries and other occasions.
Although he has had corporate clients from time to time, more than 99 percent of his business comes from area residents, such as David and Julie Barker, who own Helen’s Restaurant, and Glenn and Tara Johnson, who own Johnson’s Town Line Auto Inc.
The Barkers used Down East Limousine three times to attend concerts in Bangor.
“I would have been too tired to drive up and back,” Julie Barker said.
After she and her husband worked on their feet each day at the restaurant, it was nice to have someone else drive, she said.
The Barkers went with friends and split the cost, which McGuire said is about $500 for a round-trip to a Bangor concert.
Barker said it was cheaper than staying overnight at a hotel, and they were back home in their own beds afterward, ready for work the next day.
The Johnsons rented the limo to celebrate their anniversary in early October.
“We had a wonderful time,” Tara Johnson said. “[McGuire] is very professional, and the limo is very comfortable.”
McGuire remembers another client who booked the limo for a scavenger hunt as a birthday party for a 9-year-old. The adults placed clues at businesses around Washington County, and the kids had to find them and tell McGuire where to go for the next clue.
“We spent several hours traveling around Washington County, looking for clues,” McGuire said.
Some people rent the limousine just for the fun of riding in it, without a destination, he said.
McGuire said he can’t serve alcohol to his passengers because he’s not licensed. However, passengers can and often do bring their own alcoholic beverages.
The white 2004 Hummer H2 is equipped with drinkware and coolers that can be filled with drinks on ice. Lights, mirrors and music complete the ambience.
The limo also has a screen that can be raised for privacy or lowered for contact between driver and passenger.
“Surprisingly, not too many people want it up,” he said.
They either want to see where they’re going or they want to be able to talk to him.
McGuire started the business in 2013 with a 2001 Lincoln Navigator limousine. He chose to start a limousine service because he wanted something that would not interfere with his full-time work running McGuire Seasonal Services, which provides landscaping and snow removal.
He also considered the needs of Washington County, he said.
“We still have a desperate need of more entertainment,” he said.
While a limo service isn’t exactly public transportation, it can provide a sober driver for people who want to go out and have a good time.
McGuire said he sold the Lincoln in late summer and bought the Hummer on Sept. 11.
One of the reasons for the upgrade was color. The Lincoln was tan, and many people — especially those booking for weddings — wanted white.
“The white Hummer for limos is really what people are looking for,” he said. “It took months to find what I wanted.”
McGuire said he found the Hummer on the Internet and bought a one-way plane ticket to Oklahoma to pick it up. It took him 2½ days to drive the 1,900 miles back to Maine.
He didn’t want to reveal the purchase price but said it cost about the same as a new pickup truck.
On the open road, the limo handles much like any passenger car or truck, he said.
“It’s when you’re in parking lots or tight spaces that you really have to be careful,” he said.
McGuire said the Hummer has four-wheel drive. Although he doesn’t intend to take it out in a snowstorm — winter is a slow time for the business — he feels good knowing he has it in case a little snow falls during a fall or spring outing.