Danielle Spring of Worcester, co-owner with Jonathan Koop of S&K Valet, stands near her apartment with her car. (T&G Staff / TOM RETTIG)
...Danielle R. Spring
likes nothing better than looking at an empty parking lot and calculating how many vehicles it could hold.
Parking is her
thing and nowadays, Ms. Spring
is in parking heaven.
Three years ago, Ms. Spring
and Mr. Koop could be found parking cars for customers of the Pearl Oyster Restaurant on Shrewsbury Street.
But now, Ms. Spring
and Mr. Koop don't park the cars themselves.
"It's really cool to look back on it," Ms. Spring
, 27, said of S&K's origins.The interview took place in the morning, and she
had just rolled out of bed, having been up until 4 a.m. driving her
gold Lexus SUV from one client to another to make sure things were running smoothly.
"Jon and Danielle
will call several people over to get all the cars moved and parked and everything done right.
and Mr. Koop have found that their biggest problem is the occasional drunken patron.
"They come out and think we're their best friends," Ms. Spring
said, elaborating on the situation her
employees must handle."They ask for their keys.We say ‘no' and give the keys to the restaurant." Ms. Spring
has a firm but pleasing manner.She
always offers to pay the patron's cab fare home.
"I'd rather pay for the cab than have somebody get killed," she
Mr. Ludy added that both Mr. Koop and Ms. Spring
are easy to work with and good problem solvers.
...Mr. Ahlquist said that they hired S&K because Ms. Spring attended Bancroft School with one of his daughters.
...Ms. Spring was born and raised in Worcester.She graduated from Bancroft and then from Denison University in Ohio.She
went on to law school at The Ohio State University
, but quickly discovered the field was not for her
.She later became a teacher for the Correctional Recovery Academy in the Massachusetts state prison system.
"I did that for six months," Ms. Spring
said."I thought, ‘I need to find something I really want to do.' " She went to work for Laz Parking Limited of Hartford at St. Vincent Hospital.
At first, Ms. Spring
resented Mr. Koop.
and Mr. Koop both like sports.
...Ms. Spring recalled that they came up with the idea for S&K Valet in the fall of 2005 while watching a basketball game on TV.
They formed a partnership and later converted S&K
to a female-owned company with minority status.Ms. Spring
is African-American and American Indian.She is a member of the Pocasset Wampanoag tribe of Rhode Island.
The newly minted entrepreneurs set a goal of landing three accounts during their first year in business.They acquired 12.They attribute some of their success to good timing - the restaurant and entertainment scenes were taking off - and the balance of hard work and a persuasive sales pitch.They emphasize the efficiency of their service and stress that hiring a Worcester company will boost the local economy.
The company has yet to turn a profit, Ms. Spring
and Mr. Koop project that if S&K
continues to expand, they will be in the black within two years.They compete with Valet Park of America, a Springfield company, as well as Laz
, the company that serves St. Vincent.Ms. Spring
speaks with pride of the ethnic diversity of her
employees.Many are young male college students - but not all of them."We have a lady and a gentleman in their 50s," Ms. Spring
said."They're out there running.I love it.They're awesome."
Each day, S&K employees can be assigned to any one of the company's clients.They call in to Ms. Spring
to say they are available; they earn $10 an hour and pool their tips.
In the view of Ms. Spring
is like a family.