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Out & About / Ventura County | Shoptalk

Wheels of Love

Limousine services give wedding couples the royal treatment.

May 15, 1999|LEO SMITH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Eleven years after their wedding, Richard Martinez says he and his wife, MarLena, are as happy as ever. It's a wedded bliss that the couple encourage others to experience and indeed, would like to help create.

So when it came time for the Martinezes to start their own business, there was little question that it would have something to do with weddings. And with Richard Martinez an experienced limousine driver, it made sense to look in that direction.

In January, the couple opened the Camarillo-based Premiere Limousine Service, providing transportation for a variety of occasions, with a specialty in wedding service.

With wedding season bearing down and a few senior proms remaining, Premiere Limousine and other limo services are in high demand. We checked some Ventura County operations to see what they had to offer.

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"I wanted to come in with a limousine company that did things the old-fashioned way--bringing glamour and pampering back to limousines," Richard Martinez said. "I'm happily married and I love to see couples in the same boat."

To set the boat a-sail, Premiere Limousine offers red-carpet treatment, with an extra wide red carpet that easily fits bride and groom walking arm in arm. The company also offers petit fours presented to the bride and groom in wooden boxes, champagne, toasting glasses, a "Just Married" sign and a snapshot of the couple.

"Myself and all of my drivers are trained in wedding coordination, just in case we get to a wedding and everything's a mess," Martinez said. "We can get them to pose for pictures, get the bride and groom moving along. It makes a difference when somebody specializes in weddings. I have a network I work with if you want dove releases, butterfly release, custom CDs with your wedding vows."

Martinez owns one 10-passenger stretch limo and has two dozen more at his disposal through contracts with two other local companies.

The basic rate for a Premiere Limousine rental is $65 per hour. A three-hour wedding package, with the extras thrown in, is $300.

For senior proms, Martinez decorates cars to match the school colors and provides sparkling apple juice and a Polaroid snapshot for the passengers.

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Richard Thorsen, owner of Classic Limousine Service of Thousand Oaks, has been catering to limo clients from Santa Barbara to west Los Angeles County for 17 years. And each year, the prom-wedding season has been busy.

"This is a seasonal business--seasonal peaks and valleys," Thorsen said. "This is always one of the peaks."

Thus it's a tricky time for people to get a car on short notice. But with 18 vehicles in his fleet, Thorsen said he usually is able to work something out.

"Booking for the next week or two will be tough," he said. "It just depends on what time and when. You may have to settle for what's left. You might want a white car and have to settle for a black car or vice versa."

Thorsen's sedans and stretch limos seat six to 10. For proms, he said, the larger ones tend to go first. The new Lincoln stretch limos are equipped with televisions, VCRs, CD players and cellular phones.

Classic Limousine's hourly rate is $40-$70. For proms, the company requires an eight-hour minimum rental, with a ninth hour free. For weddings, the company provides a complimentary red carpet, balloon bouquets and champagne.

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Like Classic Limousine Service, Eva's Limousine Service of Ventura has been serving all of Ventura County and into Santa Barbara for nearly two decades. Owner Eva Lindell operates six cars seating six to 10.

Lindell said clients rent her cars for a variety of purposes--from the traditional weddings and proms to transportation to hospitals.

Eva's Limousine charges $45-$65 per hour, with a wedding special--including champagne, silver service, a red carpet and a "Just Married" sign--for $160-$230.

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