A Hagey bus is taking its last tour--Clarence Hagey founded the company 84 years ago
After shuttling hundreds of thousands of passengers over millions of miles throughout the United States and Canada to see Broadway shows, visit museums, attend rallies, and watch sporting events, the venerable Hagey Coach & Tours company is shutting down later this month, another victim of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It might be a little virus,” says general manager Brian Hagey, who has spent most of his adult life working for the company founded by his grandfather in 1936. “But it sure packs a powerful punch.”
Hagey found out just how powerful in mid-March when the company was ordered by Gov. Tom Wolf to shut down to help stop the virus from spreading. The news didn’t come as a complete surprise to Hagey. Despite a strong first two months, even as warnings of a deadly virus spread, Hagey had a feeling the travel industry would be in trouble.
“It was not good,” he recalls.
Once it became clear the shutdown would be indefinite, the company canceled hundreds of trips and began refunding customers. And even when the shutdown was lifted in July, the company had trouble filling its trips even to the state’s half capacity requirement.
“People were still frightened,” says Bob Bergey, a long-time driver with Hagey.
And it hasn’t gotten much better since then, prompting the difficult decision to cease operations for the company founded 84 years ago when Clarence Hagey was paid $1.50 a day to bus students from their neighborhoods to consolidated schools in Souderton.
The good news is Hagey’s school transportation division – Transportation Services Inc. – will continue operating. Several employees have accepted jobs with the family company, said Hagey.
For Michele Laganella, who has been chartering coaches with Hagey since 2007 to run fundraising trips on behalf of the Fox Chase Library, the shutdown news was stunning. Her final trip was set for November 5 to the Dutch Apple Dinner Theater in Lancaster to see the show “Million Dollar Quartet.”
“It’s a wonderful, wonderful company with so many good people,” she said. “It’s heartbreaking.”
One of Laganella’s favorite drivers over the years was Bob Bergey. As a kid, Bergey had a small metal Greyhound bus that he used to play with for hours, dreaming of the adventures he could have behind the wheel.
And then in 2002, having sold the printing business he owned for 17 years, Bergey landed a job as a driver with Hagey and began to fulfill his childhood fantasies. He drove nearly 1 million miles, visiting every state east of the Mississippi and a few to the west, plus eastern Canada. At least once a week, he made the trip to New York City or Washington, D.C., where he eventually became a certified tour guide.
For the last 13 years, Bergey took the Eagles Fan Club to home games at Lincoln Financial Field. His passengers even invited him to join in their pre-game tailgating festivities, including lobster tail and filet mignon for the opener.
“It was even better than I imagined,” said Bergey, a Telford resident, of his career with Hagey.
Getting the call from Brian Hagey a few weeks ago that the company was going out of business, Bergey recalled, was “like a punch in the gut.”
“It’s a great company to work for,” he added. “Everyone enjoyed it. That’s why there was such little turnover. So much camaraderie.”
Since deciding to shut down, Hagey has been wrestling with how to dispose of the company’s 16 luxury touring coaches, each equipped with DVD players, access to WiFi, and outlets for charging electronic devices. In the past, older models have found homes with new owners as diverse as a mining company in Africa and a Guatemalan transit service. So far, Hagey says, he has received interest from churches and smaller coach companies but no offers.
On November 20, one of the company’s remaining coaches – driven by Blaine Hagey, Brian’s older brother – will depart the Hagey Transportation Center on Schoolhouse Road en route to Sight & Sound, a popular destination in Ronks, Lancaster County. When it returns later that night, the eight-plus decades run of Hagey Coach & Tours will come to an end.
“I figured a Hagey started with the first trip in 1936, so a Hagey should finish things with the last trip,” said Brian Hagey.