By Glenn Swain
Ten years ago Trey Humphreys and a group of friends in Atlanta, Georgia banded together to start a unique transportation business called Fur Bus that promised an “unFURgettable” travel experience.
The genesis of the Fur Bus began just before New Year’s 2000. Humphreys and three friends, Jobe Mathew Gruber, Boss Corban and Billy Stevens, purchased a 1985 short school bus from a Virginia seller. They outfitted the vintage bus with used furniture, Christmas lights, a broken TV and a generator. After deciding to ring in the Y2K New Year in Las Vegas, the guys bought brightly-colored polyester costumes and wigs for the trip. As the bus sailed west from Atlanta toward Vegas at a whopping 45 miles per hour the guys got bored and began gluing patches of colorful fake fur over the inside of the bus. They arrived in Vegas and began telling onlookers they were in a famous band. On the return trip the idea that the Fur Bus could become a business began to manifest.
That decision began ten years of success as a niche business for Atlanta residents wanting a very unique bus and party experience. As business steadily picked up, the Fur Buses became more elaborate and more amenities were added. Currently, Humphreys and his three friends, including two other partners, run five vehicles; one 24-passenger school bus called the Classic Series, a Chevy Titan 5500, and four other 14- to 34-passenger Ford E-450 vehicles. Since starting the business the group has retired three Classic Series school buses. Humphreys says he hires what he calls “overly qualified” commercially licensed drivers with clean MVR records and a minimum of five years experience.
Humphreys and his cohorts thought the majority of business would come from bachelor and bachelorette parties. They quickly discovered that their main demographic was women 25 to 45 years old, followed by kids 7 to 10.
“We do a lot of birthdays and corporate groups,” he says. “It’s a big random mosh posh of people.”
Corporations routinely rent out the Fur Bus to take clients to Atlanta sporting events and other occasions. Children’s tours feature themes that include Disco Diva, Rock Star and Blast from the Past.
Humphreys recalls one Fur Bus customer of special importance.
“There was a backgammon tournament in town,” he says. “Our driver called and said some guy sitting in the back of the bus who he thought was kind of nerdy turned out to be Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft.”
Humphreys says the cost to outfit a vehicle can run up to $25,000. The powerful, top-of-the-line audio system can run up to $10,000. Although he manages the bus refurbishing, he outsources the carpentry and upholstery work.
“I order from a wholesaler up in New York,” Humphreys says. “I also go around the fabric shops in town with coupons to see what they have and piece it together. I buy whatever fabric is on sale.”
While Humphreys and the group have no plans to export the Fur Bus idea to other cities for now, all can say their novel Fur Bus idea ten years ago was a “fur-tunate” move for them all. BR