Daughter takes wheel at Unique Limousine
Tracy Salinger Long was 14 years old when her dad plopped a stack of dollar bills in front of her while she sat in his office.
"Hey, count this. Don’t get it wrong," Jim Salinger told her.
It was a lot of money, the younger Salinger recalled. She counted it, twice. Later she wrote down the exact total and showed it to her father. It was more than $800.
"Are you sure?" he asked.
"Let’s go fill out a deposit slip," he said.
In 1987, making deposits was Salinger Long’s first job with Unique Limousine Inc., a Susquehanna Township-based company founded by her parents, Jim and Josie Salinger.
Salinger Long officially bought the enterprise from her father in a deal that closed Oct. 5. She declined to disclose the terms, sharing only that "I’m his daughter and he is kind.”
She now holds the title of president and CEO.
Salinger Long’s history with Unique isn't devoid of gaps, one of which involved college. But, college never really connected with her. She thought it was a waste of time and money. Having worked for several years in Unique’s front office – and being involved in all parts of the operation, except bookkeeping, which she detested – she felt she wasn’t learning much in the classroom.
"This is stupid, I could teach these classes," she thought while she was in school. She dropped out after a year and a half. It wasn’t a decision that her father initially supported.
The short college stint was followed by a hiatus from Unique in her early 20s. After a couple years away, she found her way back to the family company at the age of 25.
She has been with the company since, even offering to buy it from her dad about 14 years ago when she was in her early 30s.
"He didn’t want to have that conversation" at that time, she said.
In 2018, he did.
"'I’m getting tired,'" she said he told her. "He’s 76."
Jim Salinger and his wife operated several other businesses before opening Unique in 1982. They eventually sold off the other companies and expanded Unique, buying other limo-related companies in Lancaster and in York.
It outgrew its original location on North Cameron Street in Harrisburg in the early 2000s, before building its current garage and location on Crooked Hill Road in Susquehanna Township.
Both parents were key to the success of the company, Salinger Long said.
Jim Salinger still plays a supportive role with Unique. He’s in the office every day, mostly working in the company shop.
"His love is in the cars," she said.
Unique Limousine has a fleet of vehicles and stretch limos and employs 70 to 75 people.
It shuttles mostly corporate clients but about 10 percent of the business is for leisure travel, such as weddings or other special occasions. Unique contracts with companies worldwide to handle every aspect of ground travel for clients.
Salinger Long knows that she is taking over a strong company. Her mother taught her the value of kindness, empathy and caring for others. Her dad showed her how to not let others take advantage of her.
Besides venturing into more technology, there are no drastic changes in the works. Sticking to what has made the company successful, she plans to give the best service and care, and taking care of people is her only priority.
For three decades, the company has defined her.
"You cut me open, I bleed motor oil," she said.