After more than a decade of thinking about it, Village Tours & Charters president Jeff Arensdorf is branching into the entertainer coach business.
That, as he explains, is “fancy buses that haul the stars.”
He recently closed on a deal to buy Four Seasons Coach Leasing, a company based in Lebanon, Tenn., just east of Nashville.
“These guys have been in that business since 1982,” Arensdorf says. “These coaches are active all over the country hauling . . . stars.”
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He says it’s a diversification of his business
“We’re excited about bringing it to Wichita.”
Arensdorf says most companies that do the performer tours are around the Nashville area.
“It’s just been Nashville has been Music City.”
He says he bought the best 20 of the company’s 34 coaches and will add two more in the first quarter of next year.
“We’re going to need more.”
Arensdorf renamed the business Four Seasons Coach with a tagline that says “Driven by Village Tours.”
“I didn’t want to drop their name totally.”
He took over all of the existing Four Seasons business — acts such as Culture Club, Elton John, LeAnn Rimes, Liz Phair, Salt-N-Pepa and a lot of names Arensdorf has never heard of — and he’s been on a quick learning curve.
“We’ve learned that these entertainers are a little more high maintenance than our typical (customers),” Arensdorf says.
“There’s a guy who was upset because his espresso machine wouldn’t fit on the counter.”
Arensdorf says it’s a $4,000 espresso machine “he has to take with him” along with his four dogs.
“It was, like, this is a major emergency,” Arensdorf says. “We’re just experiencing a lot of that.”
One tour manager was upset that an escape hatch on one coach had a small drip during a heavy rain.
“Most people are kind of forgiving about things like that,” Arensdorf says.
Not this particular female singer.
“Apparently it dripped on her a few times. Now they’re having all sorts of demands and not wanting to pay their last bill,” Arensdorf says. “Everything’s a little bit higher expectation.”
As Have You Heard? reported in January, Arensdorf is building a new Village Tours headquarters on 10 acres at the northwest corner of K-96 and Ridge Road.
What he couldn’t say at the time is that he’s modified the building for the fleet, and he also is building two hotel rooms in the space “so we can retain drivers who live in Nashville.”
“There’s a half a dozen of them that are really experienced. They’ve been with this company for a long time.”
Otherwise, Arensdorf says, he’ll mostly hire local.
“We’re needing some mechanics,” he says.
He needs a couple more diesel mechanics and is still needing some interiors work, such as on cabinets, tile and carpet.
Local workers are one reason Arensdorf thinks Wichita is ideal for this business.
“We’ve got a Midwestern work ethic. It’s really showing through to me.”
Also, he says, “We’re right in the middle of the country, and these tours are going all over the place.”
The band the Offspring started their tour earlier this year, and their last date happened to be a few weeks ago at Intrust Bank Arena.
“We dropped that band off at the airport and brought those buses straight over here,” Arensdorf says of his current headquarters near 21st and Tyler.
Wichita also is more convenient to places such as Toronto than Nashville was, he says.
And tours are “going to California all the time.”
Arensdorf says he’s “either as competitive or more competitive on pricing” for the business.
“I’m pretty stoked about it,” he says. “I think we’re going to be successful in Kansas.”