Today, DJ Josh gets to chat with Chris Hudson from Southern Comfort Services, a true black car transportation company in the Destin and 30A area. What's a true black car service? And what can Chris' team can provide for your wedding? Give this episode a listen.
In it, you'll hear about their common background (both veterans), their similar day-off routines, as well as everything you need to know when booking transportation for your next event!
Make sure to click that subscribe button, so you don't miss an episode. And if you haven't left a review, DJ Josh would appreciate it! He might even read it on a future podcast! Also, if you have a wedding pro that you think other brides might benefit from working with, send their info to [email protected] he'd LOVE to chat with them :)
The intro and outro for this Highlight Weddings & Events Podcast were both edited and produced by DropHouse Voiceover Production Studio and Tony Tee Neto, Voiceover Artist & Audio Producer. For more info on branding elements, editing, and post-production services, visit http://drophouse.com.
The song used for the intro and outro for this episode is Crush by https://audiohub.com License: CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/)
DJ Josh Woeckener: [00:00:00] This is Season two, Episode one of Make Your Wedding a Highlight. My name is DJ Josh from Highlight Weddings and Events. My guest today is Chris Hudson from Southern Comfort Services.
Hello, everyone! Thanks to give her checking out the podcast. My name is DJ Josh from Highlight Weddings and Events. And my guest today is a super awesome guy. His name is Chris Hudson from Southern Comfort Services.
It's kind of refreshing that I get to talk to a gentleman because in the wedding industry it's predominantly female, so this is a nice change of pace. No offense to all the ladies that I get to work with on a regular basis. But it's nice to be able to talk to another guy.
How are you doing today?
Chris Hudson: [00:00:59] Doing great. You know, thank you for having us on. Like you said, it is a, a very female dominated industry, so happy to be here and happy to talk to you about what we're doing.
DJ Josh Woeckener: [00:01:08] Okay. If you don't mind, would you introduce yourself to the listeners of the podcast?
Chris Hudson: [00:01:13] Yeah, absolutely. so like you said, my name is Chris Hudson and I'm the manager of Southern Comfort Services. What we are is a true black car service in and around the Destin and 30A areas. And a lot of our business revolves around the wedding transportation.
DJ Josh Woeckener: [00:01:28] Okay. What do you mean when you say black car?
Chris Hudson: [00:01:30] It's a true black car service. So that just means that we're professional service. All of our drivers are fully uniformed chauffeurs. They've got all the credentials as far as licensing, DOT-regulated, everything like that. So we're a true black car service. We provide the best for all of our clients.
DJ Josh Woeckener: [00:01:46] Okay. So how did you get into the transportation industry? What was your trajectory like getting to this point?
Chris Hudson: [00:01:53] Well, it kind of just fell into my lap.Full disclosure: this is a family run and operated business. My in-laws are actually the owners of this company and my wife and I moved into the area a couple of years ago. We were looking for a change of pace and the job that I was moving here for kind of fell through. And this just happened into my lap.
Not in a million years would I think that I'd be doing transportation or anything like this, but it's definitely a change of pace that I needed and absolutely love it. I get to work with a lot of great individuals, a lot of great planners, a lot of great venues, a lot of great vendors out there in and around the 38 areas. So absolutely love it. And haven't looked back since
DJ Josh Woeckener: [00:02:31] Yeah. It's funny because if you had told my 20 year old ish self that I would own my own wedding and private event, DJ company in my thirties, I probably would have laughed because for one it's like, "Oh, DJing. Yeah. Other people do that, but that's not really me." And two. It's just, I definitely wasn't in the entrepreneurial mindset when I was a younger adult.
Chris Hudson: [00:02:56] No, I wasn't either. I actually spent about eight and a half years as a firefighter in the state of Louisiana, did four years in the Marine Corps, and I was also Sheriff's deputy for about three and a half years.
This is been a huge change of pace for me and pretty much a 180 from what I was doing over there to this stuff. But like I said, it's a much better pace of life and I get to live in paradise. While I do it.
DJ Josh Woeckener: [00:03:19] This is true. I was also in the military as well. I served active duty in the Air Force. So I understand the difference between being well, well, firefighter and Marine Corps. They're not the same, but there's that comradery and tight-knit unit kind of feel. And for me personally, the way a DJ company works is you're very off on your own, very solo. So there's not that comradery that like you're working together on something. That is something I do miss.
Chris Hudson: [00:03:47] Oh, absolutely.
DJ Josh Woeckener: [00:03:48] About not being in the air force, but I totally understand what you're talking about when you're saying it's a change of pace. There's just a different vibe to it.
Chris Hudson: [00:03:56] That's right.
DJ Josh Woeckener: [00:03:57] Okay. So what excites you about being a part of a couples of wedding event team?
Chris Hudson: [00:04:03] That's a great question. One of the biggest things for us is just being a part of the team, honestly. The transportation, in my opinion, is often one of the most overlooked aspects of a wedding. Being able to be a part of it and really kind of show people what they can have when it comes to transportation. Big thing with weddings is the drinking and going and taking pictures here and over there. And you've got bridesmaids going over here, groomsmen going over there, you got family members moving around town, all this different stuff.
Well, that's a lot of headache for a lot of people to deal with. So being able to, to be in charge of all that, especially on a day that is such a big day for a bride and a groom. To be able to give them that peace of mind. That's one of the biggest satisfactions that we have. So at the end of the night, when everybody's had a great time and they're enjoying it and they don't want the night to end, that's kind of when we really can sit back and see the fruits of our labor.
DJ Josh Woeckener: [00:04:56] Yeah, totally. Especially if you have the ceremony and the reception in different locations. 98 and Highway 30A are not the easiest to traverse, especially if you're in the busier part of the year. And unfortunately the busier part of the year is usually when weddings are happening. So you have a ton of traffic.
And just having it set up to where your guests, and you as a couple, don't have to worry about trying to figure out where you're going. Having that taken care of. It's just another way to reduce the amount of stress that you have to deal with because weddings are already stressful enough. And there's no reason to compound that with surprise things that pop up.
Chris Hudson: [00:05:46] Absolutely. And that's one of the big things that we provide is that certainty. Touching back to the fact that we're a professional black car service. We travel these roads on a daily basis. We don't just stick specifically to weddings, so we do a lot of other functions and different types of runs. So we are in and around these areas on a daily basis.
One of the biggest issues that we run into is down in the seaside area. It's an absolutely beautiful area. The seaside chapel is a very sought after venue for couples to actually say their vows. But the problem is, is that A) there's not a whole lot of parking and B) it's very tight in there.
So you're laughing. You obviously know what I'm talking about there and anybody that,
DJ Josh Woeckener: [00:06:27] Oh, it's a nightmare.
Chris Hudson: [00:06:28] really is. And anybody that's been in that area, especially in June, July, August knows that it's tight and it's just a headache in and of itself just driving it. So that's where we provide that certainty is that we can get our bigger vehicles in there. I mean, we have larger buses that we can actually take back in there to transport the masses, so you don't have to worry about that. If you're not from the area, if you're from out of state, never been here, or anything like that, you pull into there and it's enough to make you turn around and head out because it's so tight and it's so hectic down in there.
So that's another, one of the things that we can really assist the bride and the groom with is providing that certainty of. in the different areas, whether it's Seaside, Rosemary, Watercolor, Watersound. Any of the areas that are these beach side communities that they weren't meant for the masses, they're meant to be a small beach side community. That's one of the things that we can really assist with.
DJ Josh Woeckener: [00:07:18] Yeah. My wife and I had a couples photo shoot in Seaside. And I didn't realize that they block off the parking. This is probably more of a down season type thing, cause we had it at the beginning of December. And I pull up and I'm like, "Oh crap. They don't" like the, none of the parking spaces were open in that little square. So we had to kind of figure out and parking back there is, is not easy. There's like, no, you may find a spot, but you also might not. So
Chris Hudson: [00:07:47] That's right.
DJ Josh Woeckener: [00:07:48] Yeah. That's just not fun. So how can Southern Comfort Services make a couple's wedding a highlight?
Chris Hudson: [00:07:55] One of the biggest things that we deal with, like I said earlier, is that transportation is often the most overlooked aspect when it comes to a wedding, everybody's focused on a lot of other things out there. And so when it comes to the transportation of your family members, your bridesmaids, your groomsmen, the bride, the groom, anybody, and everybody, all the way down to your guests, that often gets overlooked until the last possible minute. So one of the ways that we can mitigate that is just by being in contact with people. People are thinking they're going to have a reception in one location and the ceremony in another location, and you're going to have to transport anywhere between.10, 20, 100, 200, 300 people. The best thing you can do is take a look at the transportation in an area to make sure that they A) have the capabilities and B) have the ability to do that because it is such an overlooked thing. If people just at least contact us and fill us in on what they're looking for, we can custom tailor transportation packages to each individual event.
DJ Josh Woeckener: [00:08:57] Okay. So what are your capabilities as Southern Comfort Services? What kind of services can you provide? Because when I think of a transportation company, it's kind of this, "Oh, it's a transportation company that they provide transportation. Can you talk a little bit more specifically about what you as Southern Comfort Services provide different events?
Chris Hudson: [00:09:18] Absolutely. So one of the biggest things that we can do is we can custom-tailor transportation packages for each individual event. We provide services from airport transportation to weddings, to anything that you could think of that you would need transportation for. So in the wedding industry, specifically, if we have a bride and groom that are possibly coming into the area on a bachelor/bachelorette, we have the ability to transport them wherever they want to go. They're going out to eat, going out to the bars, going out shopping. We can handle all of that.
In our fleet right now we currently have Suburbans, we've got the 13 passenger sprinter van, the 27 passenger Ford F-550, and a 43 passenger Freightliner. As well as a Audi, A-8. So we do have ability to transport a good number of people.
We also work with some affiliates in the area. We're working with one in the upcoming month, in February. We have a 200-plus person wedding that we're going to be handling and we're getting assistance from one of our affiliates to make sure that we have the necessary vehicles to move all of the guests at one time. We can do anything from the small weddings to the big weddings.
The other aspect on our capabilities is pretty much anything that you want. We just had a wedding last month where the bride and the groom wanted assortment of snacks and champagne and bottles of water in the vehicles when they were going and picking up some specific family members at the airport. They also wanted some champagne in the vehicle for the bride when she was going to the wedding. So it's anything like that.
When I say that, if you want to talk to us and tell us kind of what you're looking for, that's all this stuff that we're looking for is if you want a bottle of Vuve in there, we can make that happen. We just need to know those types of things.
DJ Josh Woeckener: [00:10:59] All right. That's cool.
Now, do you guys provide classic cars? Cause I know that's sometimes a request from couples just because of the aesthetic for pictures and that kind of stuff.
Chris Hudson: [00:11:09] We don't actually own any classic vehicles, but we do work really closely with a number of individuals in the area that own the classic cars themselves. We do assist and facilitate setting up the actual reservation on getting one of those vehicles. And what we always try and do is get a flat rate, which will allow the vehicle to come in beforehand so the bride and the groom can take some pictures with it, as well as having it for a getaway vehicle.
DJ Josh Woeckener: [00:11:33] Speaking of couples, when should a couple book transportation? How far out in advance of the wedding or event date, should they start talking to you about reserving transportation?
Chris Hudson: [00:11:45] Yeah, that's another really great question. That's a very common question we get. We would suggest anywhere from five to six months out. The reason we say that once you make a reservation with us, we send you a charter agreement that just kind of goes over everything as far as you know, anything that's allowed on there, anything that's not allowed on there, as well as damages, any of that type of stuff. But we do require a 50% deposit to reserve those vehicles. So in the busier months, it is kind of important to at least get that reservation in a couple of months ahead of time. I definitely would not wait until a month or two prior. Just because we can't guarantee that we're going to have the availability to make that reservation, that close to a wedding.
DJ Josh Woeckener: [00:12:31] Gotcha. Okay. So let's talk about COVID-19. How has that impacted you both personally and professionally?
Chris Hudson: [00:12:40] You know, COVID has been a horrible issue to deal with. Our thoughts and prayers go out to everybody that's been affected by COVID. We have seen a lot of it. We lost a lot of business beginning of the 2020 year. And it's been kind of a learning curve. We've had to retool and readjust when it comes to our standard practices. Obviously with a health pandemic, there's a lot of people that have very legitimate concerns when it comes to travel. And the fact that we are pretty much a hundred percent tourist based in and around this area in our specific company, we have had to take some time to reevaluate our standard practices and procedures when it comes to sanitation, how we handle dealing with people, face to face type stuff, because we do have people that are coming in from out of state out of the area.
So we've had to wig wag our way through it with protecting our clients because that's obviously our utmost concern. Our first priority is ensuring that our clients receive that standard service that they all know with the professional service that we provide. So being able to provide that while still maintaining the CDC recommendations when it comes to sanitation and everything like that, our biggest obstacle has been trying to learn how to handle COVID-19 without burdening our clients.
One of the biggest things that we're seeing right now is that people from up north: New York, Georgia, and the, you know, Atlanta, and the bigger cities they're ready to get out of those cities because they've been in lockdown and they're all coming down here because we just don't have those restrictions. So we're still trying to maintain the safety and security of all of our clients through sanitation and everything like that. But we don't want to burden them because they are coming down here to get away from that. This is kind of their vacation. This is their release from all of that. So we're just trying to make that as seamless and as easy as possible while still protecting them as well as protecting our drivers and our staff.
DJ Josh Woeckener: [00:14:45] Right. It's definitely created challenges. But I think that the companies that are focused on the client experience have been able to still surpass those challenges that it's provided.
Chris Hudson: [00:14:59] Absolutely. And that's one of our basic principles that we have at Southern Comfort Services. We want to provide a positive, memorable experience for anybody coming into the area. In general, transportation is often overlooked. Uber and Lyft, and all the other companies out there have made transportation so accessible. But what they've forgot is the level of service. It's really just a pull up, get in, and let's go.
Whereas what we provide is. All of our vehicles are completely sanitized in between each run. You do have a personal connection with our chauffeurs. Do you know them on a first name basis? If you're a repeat customer, we try and get you with the same chaueffeur every single time. And we even have people call and request specific drivers because they do have that relationship with them and they do feel comfortable and safe coming into our area because they know we are taking those precautions and we are taking this pandemic very seriously.
DJ Josh Woeckener: [00:15:52] Mm. Okay. Well, since you've shared with the listeners yourself as the transportation professional, would you mind answering a few personal questions?
Chris Hudson: [00:16:02] Absolutely.
DJ Josh Woeckener: [00:16:03] What did you want to be when you grew up?
Chris Hudson: [00:16:06] So I wanted to be a firefighter.
DJ Josh Woeckener: [00:16:08] Okay.
Chris Hudson: [00:16:09] Since I was a little kid, I always wanted to be a firefighter and I got to live that dream for a number of years. So,
DJ Josh Woeckener: [00:16:15] Now, were you a firefighter in the Marine Corps as well?
Chris Hudson: [00:16:18] No, I was not. I was actually a machine gunner in the Marine Corps. I was in the infantry,
DJ Josh Woeckener: [00:16:23] Speaking of the Marine Corps and being a firefighter. What kind of footprint has that had on your life as you've progressed out of it?
Chris Hudson: [00:16:31] Well, I mean, just like you know through the Air Force, it definitely has an impact on me.
Uh, it's definitely given me the work ethic and the drive that I have. My family, my parents, they instilled a very hard work ethic in me from the time I was very young. And I guess because they were my parents, I always had to push back on that. But getting into the, getting into the military and the fire department, you don't have mom and dad sitting there holding your hand the whole way. It's you either do it my way or you're going to feel some pain in your body.
DJ Josh Woeckener: [00:17:05] Yeah.
Chris Hudson: [00:17:05] Which believe me, I felt a lot of pain in my body cause was a slow learner in that aspect of it. But it definitely impacted me, like I said, with the work ethic, with the ability to take a look at a situation and look at it objectively, not necessarily let emotions or anything come into play. So it's really kind of instilled that work ethic and the ability to perform under stressful situation.
DJ Josh Woeckener: [00:17:31] So let's imagine that it is a Saturday. There aren't any runs. You don't have anything going on. What are you and your wife going to be doing to enjoy your day?
Chris Hudson: [00:17:42] Well, wake up at 6:00 AM .We go work out?
DJ Josh Woeckener: [00:17:45] Ok!
Chris Hudson: [00:17:46] Yeah. So we got to get the workout in. Then we go to the store, get our groceries for the week, and then come home and lay on the couch. We are home bodies. We try and stay home as much as we can. My wife is a real estate attorney in the area, so her schedule is nonstop with that. So if we don't have anything going on, we're going to lay on the couch, and hopefully they have the Harry Potter series on and we can sit on the couch and watch Harry Potter all day.
DJ Josh Woeckener: [00:18:13] Yeah, it's similar with me and my wife. Since I do events a lot, either on the weekend or throughout the week, when we have downtime, we've really become home bodies as well. And my wife, she is in the process of getting ready for a figure competition. So we are in the gym six, seven days a week. So if we had a down day, we'd probably just go together and get a workout in. Very similar relaxing time schedule. And then we just kinda hang out at the house either do like a movie marathon or she's in the middle of watching Monk. So just kinda relaxing.
Chris Hudson: [00:18:54] Throwing it back there.
DJ Josh Woeckener: [00:18:55] Yeah. Well It was one of those things where she had seen sporadic episodes, but had never watched it from the beginning all the way to the end. Though, Monk's kind of show where you can kind of pick it up wherever though,
Chris Hudson: [00:19:08] gonna have to check that one out.
DJ Josh Woeckener: [00:19:10] You should. It's not as heavy. It's very lighthearted. Some of the humor is kind of bad-ish kind of like dad joke humor a little bit. And it's just the character of Adrian Monk is very quirky and a little frustrating because he has all of the phobias and stuff, but it's kind of like a quirky whodunit type thing, so it's enjoyable.
Since we're talking about weddings, what is your favorite wedding dessert?
Chris Hudson: [00:19:42] Ooh, that is, is going to be a tough one there, but I just got to go with just the standard wedding cake.
DJ Josh Woeckener: [00:19:50] Okay.
Chris Hudson: [00:19:50] I never really ate a whole lot of it going to different weddings and stuff growing up. But, on my wedding night, I had a huge piece of it and it was absolutely delicious. So yeah, I'll go with my standard wedding cake.
DJ Josh Woeckener: [00:20:05] Okay. Yeah. If there's any cake leftover, once I have everything packed up and put away, I'll usually get a slice and just kind of decompress a little bit before I take off.
Well, before we wrap up the podcast, what is the best way for a couple to get ahold of you to start talking about the transportation for their wedding or event.
Chris Hudson: [00:20:26] All right. So the best way to get in touch with us is going to be through our phone number or our email. Our phone number is area code (850) 842-9231 or by email, which is [email protected] Or you can go over to our website, southerncomfortservicesllc.com and check us out there.
DJ Josh Woeckener: [00:20:45] Okay. Do you have any final thoughts that you'd like to leave the listeners with?
Chris Hudson: [00:20:50] Just, we really appreciate everybody coming into the area, especially now more than ever. We would love to be a part of your big day transportation to provide you with that positive, memorable experience to continue to come back here for many years to come.
DJ Josh Woeckener: [00:21:04] All right, Chris. Well, thanks for getting on the podcast today. How was the experience?
Chris Hudson: [00:21:08] That was good.
DJ Josh Woeckener: [00:21:09] All right. Not bad for your first one, right?
Chris Hudson: [00:21:11] Not at all.
DJ Josh Woeckener: [00:21:12] All right. Well, here's to the couples that are in the middle of planning their weddings and here's to making those weddings a highlight.
Chris Hudson: [00:21:23] Absolutely.