PROFILE: George Hammond

September 16, 2016
By Marcy Shortuse

profile-george1BY SUE ERWIN – If you’re planning a vacation but don’t feel like driving yourself to the airport, you may want to call the newest owner of Boca Grande Limousine, George Hammond. This trustworthy business owner and experienced driver will be sure to get you there safely.
George moved here in 2002 from Massachusetts, where he was a part-time driver and a recently retired carpenter. After graduating from high school, he went to a vocational school to study metal fabrication, but he quickly realized he liked carpentry much better, so he transitioned into that as a career choice.
George is originally from Ashland, Mass., a town in Middlesex County just south of Framingham.
He graduated from high school in 1982 and started working at Framingham State College as a carpenter. He worked at the college until 2002.
“I was there for 20 years. The college went through some changes and reorganized the staff, and I was offered an early retirement, so I took it,” he said.
Prior to his retirement from the college, he was working part-time at a limousine company in Hopkinton, Mass.
“I really enjoyed that job. I loved being with the clients and taking them to all kinds of interesting places. You’re never in a bad place. Many days, I was taking clients to weddings and parties or other social events,” he said.
George quickly learned that one of the hardest cities to drive around in was Boston. But once he learned the roads, he fell in love with it.
“It was kind of like organized chaos. That job didn’t really feel like a job – it was more fun that it was work,” he said. “It makes me think of a saying I once heard: ‘If you love what you do, you’ll never have to work a day in your life’ –   and that’s what it felt like.”
He worked as a driver for nearly two years while he was still at the college before he was offered the retirement package.
“I always had my eye on living in Florida. My folks lived in Englewood, and they were snowbirds here. I’d come down and visit them, and I really loved the area. I knew if I could ever make my way here comfortably, I would do it in a heartbeat.”
In 2002 he accepted the retirement package and started inquiring online about limousine businesses in southwest Florida that might be looking for help. He found two that were looking for drivers. So he flew down to interview with the owners.
“I knew that Boca Grande was a very special place, and I could see myself working here, so I chose Boca Grande Limo,” he said.
He started out as a driver and eventually took ownership of the company in May of 2016. He’s still a driver there currently.
Boca Grande Limousine has 18 vehicles and 15 drivers who work for the company.
George said he likes having the office location at the north end of the island, because it’s easier for the drivers. They can pick up paperwork after crossing the bridge and then go right to the clients. He does have trustworthy affiliates in the area that can help out if things get really busy, but he said he isn’t ready to add to the business just yet.
“I’d much rather do it myself than give the work to someone else, but I want to be sure the business is going in the right direction before adding more cars or employees,” he said.
George learned entrepreneurship by starting a side business while working as a carpenter at the college.
“The professors would see my work and then ask me to do specific projects for them on their properties. I’d have to hire subcontractors like electricians and plumbers to come in and do the things I didn’t do – but I did pretty well,” he said.
He started his driving career during the winter months, when things were slow with the side jobs. The college had off-campus parking lots due to space restrictions because of student housing.
“Parking was at a premium. There was more commercial space and dormitory space than there was public parking. So they purchased a few lots off campus, and they needed a shuttle driver to take the students to and from their dorms. I had the weekend shift and I really enjoyed it. It was much more relaxing than the construction work I had been doing.”
The college outsourced the shuttle driver jobs after a year, and George looked in the classified advertisements in local newspapers to find another similar position. That’s when he found the limousine driver position in Hopkinton. He gave that a try and found he loved that job just as much as driving the shuttle bus.
“You have regular customers, so you eventually become good friends. You’re invited to more things than you ever thought you’d get to attend,” he said.
George recalls attending a polo match with one particular client.
“I remember going out onto the field to replace divots, and it was a really fun experience. It allowed me to try new things that I might not have ever done before,” he said.
He also became involved with the commercial side of the business and obtained his CDL license to drive buses to museums, ball games and other events.
George was a Golden Gloves boxer in Massachusetts during his teenage years. He saw the movie ‘Rocky’ in high school, and it inspired him to take up boxing. He started working out in a local gym and ended up fighting as a Golden Gloves competitor for nearly four years.
He recalls participating in a fight as a preliminary undercard in a Sugar Ray Leonard match in Massachusetts.
“I was good, but it was a very rough sport. In boxing, if you want to make it to the next level, you really have to be great. It’s very hard on your body. I did pretty good, but I definitely didn’t have what it takes to become a professional,” he said.
He gave the sport up after getting married and starting a family, which currently includes his two children, Vanessa of Marlboro, Mass. and Joe of Englewood, and Joe’s three grandchildren: Jayden, 7, Calan, 6, and Adrianna, 7. The boys attend The Island School in Boca Grande and Adrianna lives up north in Massachusetts.
George enjoys going back up north to visit family in the summer. He has a camper on a lake and likes to take the grandkids there.
“I keep it as a seasonal residence. I built a deck on it so it’s permanent and doesn’t move – it’s just a nice place to relax and get away. I took Jayden and Carlan up there, and we were there for the Fourth of July. The weather was just beautiful.”
George lives in Englewood with his 12-year-old Labrador retriever, Nikki.
“She’s my best friend in the world – the best dog ever. You can never give back how much love dogs give you.”
George said he loves working in Boca Grande because of the friendly clients and genuine friends he has met here.
“This was one of the best moves I have ever made in my entire life, as far as I’m concerned. The expectation I first put on this move was to just get out of the cold for a few months. Now, I can’t wait to come back down here when I go up north. Even though I have family in Massachusetts, I really do prefer it here.”
He said he also enjoys the relaxed lifestyle both on and off the island.
“I love the fact that people are not uptight, and I hope that never changes.”