Trio of Valet Parking Veterans Put Their Business in High GearFebruary 11th, 2000
February 11, 2000 – Two brothers and a friend who went to high school in Tampa never thought they’d still be in business after working as valets to underwrite their college educations.
But the trip drove their 10-year-old business, Seven One Seven Parking Enterprises, to $5 million in revenues last year. They have no debt and predict their revenues will be at $10 million in two years.
After graduating in 1990, Jason and John Accardi and Spencer Ford started the business. The Accardi twins went to Florida State University and worked as valets while studying criminal justice. Ford attended Hillsborough Community College and ran the business in Tampa.
When they graduated from college, John and Jason thought they’d eventually be attorneys.
“I never thought I’d be doing this 10 years later,” said Jason Accardi, 28, who still rolls up his shirt sleeves and works.
“They call me the ‘parking guy,’ and I love what I do.”
The business now is poised to grow rapidly since its owners beat out nationwide competitors and landed a contract with the Tampa Marriott Waterside.
“They blew us away with the quality and thoroughness of their presentation,” said Gary Hughes, the Marriott’s marketing director. “They were passionate about having the contract, and we felt they would treat our customers like their customers.”
That’s how the three men operate the business, they said.
They tell managers and employees to treat customers and their vehicles as if they owned the business.
Seven One Seven has become a “one-stop” parking service with half its business in valet and the other half in parking lot management and ownership. Seven One Seven caters to hotels, restaurants, nightclubs and private functions. Some clients include Columbia Restaurants around the state, the Ice Palace, the Hyatt Regency and convention center in downtown Tampa, The Pier and Coliseum in St. Petersburg.
The owners believe their business is different because they were the first to offer service to shopping centers. They also work for hospitals, medical facilities and large office complexes.
“Most companies specialize in certain services,” John Accardi said. “We’re a one-stop place.”
Having worked for others through school, the three friends decided they could build a better company with $10,000 from their savings and family. They named the business Seven One Seven, even though it had no special meaning, because they didn’t think they’d be in business this long, they said.
The business has grown with Tampa during the past 10 years, the Accardis said. The arrival of office building and entertainment venue construction helped, but they also have learned about people and building a reputation for “front-door service.”
A turning point was realizing that parking lot business went hand-in-hand with valet, so they began that in Ybor City. They competed with national companies and sought financially stability as the three married and started families.
Through their experiences, Ford said they learned to save money, get organized and follow through. However, management and maintaining a stable work force are the keys to success.
That stability comes from developing long-time employees and treating workers fairly.
Johnny Fletcher, 22, a University of South Florida student, said the job allows him to attend school during the day and work at night. He also likes the the $7 to $15 an hour pay, and his bosses.
“They are easy to get along with and good to work with,” Fletcher said. “They are genuinely nice guys.”
For information regarding Seven One Seven Parking Services providing valet services at your establishment, visit their website at www.717parking.com or call (800) 310-7275.