I recently came across a new
recipe for a successful travel agency, but its perhaps a bit hard
to duplicate. In order to clone this particular formula, youd need
to have your own TV show, a recording career that includes five
gold albums, 14 Grammys and seven performances at Carnegie Hall.
The names of 50,000
fans in a well-groomed database is an important piece of this
business plan, and ... oh yes, you need to know how to
I was recently
aboard the MSC Opera in the eastern Caribbean, and it seemed that
half the passengers were wearing small, red buttons with the
message, I sailed with the Jimmy Sturr Travel Agency. It seemed, if
nothing else, a clever way around the no soliciting onboard
I assumed that,
whoever Mr. Sturr was, if he had such a large group onboard, there
was a good chance he was also present.
I wanted to meet
him, so I made inquiries among the button-wearers.
Sturr, it turns
out, not only owns a travel agency, but is King of the
clarinetist, and his manager (and lifelong best friend), Gus
Kosior, have a strong entrepreneurial streak, and they have joined
in many ventures besides Sturrs musical career.
Theyve owned a
radio station, a restaurant, a liquor store and a record label.
Twenty-six years ago, they opened a travel agency.
Sturr, who tours 160 days a year, said it
occurred to him and Kosior that they might not be the only ones in
his hometown of Florida, N.Y., to be bothered that they had to use
an agency 15 miles away. So he and Kosior opened the Jimmy Sturr
Since then, theyve
sold off their radio station, restaurant and liquor store, all
located in Sturrs hometown (they kept the label, though Sturr
records on the much-larger Rounder Records), but they came to
understand that the agency was a core asset.
Polkapalooza, Sturr told me. About four times a year, well announce
a polka package -- well bring it to a venue for four days and book
the other polka bands who appear with us. Well advertise on my
television show (on the RFD Network, available through DirecTV and
Dish Network) and contact the people on the database. The other
bands contact their fans, too. And everyone books through our
draws 400 to 800 people, and these are not particularly inexpensive
packages -- his last Polkapalooza was held in Klagenfurt, Germany,
on New Years Eve.
While declining to
reveal revenue figures, Kosior said the agency does major numbers,
and that the tours account for about half of the receipts. The rest
come from local bookings.
I grew up in the
town of Florida when there was only one traffic light and about
1,500 people, Sturr said, moving into what must double as patter in
Its painful to see
what it has become now that all the people have moved up from New
York City -- now weve got 2,500 people and two traffic
Nobody said growth
comes without pain, Jimmy. To paraphrase Liberace, perhaps its a
small comfort that you can still dance all the way to the