Timi’s Tours, of Moweaqua, Illinois, is making its first acquisition with the purchase of Lifestyle Tours, of New Harmony, Indiana.
Since 1983, Lifestyle Tours has provided tours to popular destinations domestically and worldwide under the direction of founder Ken Meyer. It aligned with Timi’s Tours in 2018 to provide motorcoaches to Lifestyle, and a strong partnership was formed.
Timi’s Tours was founded In 2006 by Timi Hall-Kaufman, who also had a vision of providing exceptional tours. Since its inception, Timi’s Tours has grown into a Midwest powerhouse in the tour and charter industries.
“The alignment of brands presented an unparalleled opportunity that will benefit our customers, vendors and communities In Immeasurable ways,” Hall-Kaufman said. “Together, Lifestyle Tours and Timi’s Tours stand prepared to grow our presence In Indiana, Kentucky, Illinois, and beyond.
“In the coming months, the Evansville area can expect to see exciting new tours and the arrival of our luxury fleet of premium motorcoaches, vans and SUVs, ready to transport charter groups for any occasion across town or across the nation.”
Companies had a relationship
Meyer was looking for an exit strategy when he approached Timi’s Tours, his bus provider since 2018.
“He was very aligned with our brand in terms of how he handles things, and so we’ve kind of expected that to come for a while. Last year he let us know that he was ready to retire, and we started having that conversation,” said Jack Kaufman, Hall-Kaufman’s son and the company’s vice-president.
Kaufman said he was pleased with the greeting from the Evansville community.
“Everybody from their economic development to tourism boards has been so welcoming,” Kaufman said. “It feels like a homecoming because my grandparents are from the Evansville area. It’s really a lovely town.”
His maternal grandfather worked at the International Harvester factory in Evansville, Indiana, until 1956, when parent company, Whirlpool, shuttered the Southern Indiana plant. As a result, he opted to move to Illinois to pursue a new career as a watch repairman, and opened a successful shop
Early in its history, Timi’s Tours had tried to launch its own motorcoach fleet. When the Great Recession hit, the fledgling business decided to focus efforts on its tour operations, and it used buses from Cavallo Bus Lines, based in Gillespie, Illinois. But Cavallo, which at its peak had around 120 coaches, closed its doors in 2018 after 76 years.
“The whole area was left scrambling, and it’s really still not recovered,” Kaufman said. “We still don’t have the volume of coaches in the Midwest that we did in 2018. It was kind of a blessing in disguise for us because it has allowed us to aggressively grow our fleet. We had one new bus in 2018. We now have 15.”
Kaufman credits Timi’s Tours’ general manager, Ken Summer, for connecting Timi’s with Lifestyle Tours. Summer is a former driver for Cavallo Bus Lines. Many of Cavallo’s former drivers had migrated to Timi’s Tours.
“(Meyer) wasn’t super happy with the company that he started using after Cavallo’s bankruptcy,” Kaufman said. “So when he heard that we bought buses, he called us immediately, and we went over and met with him. On the way home from the meeting, we called and ordered a brand new bus for him.”
Easy transition expected
Kaufman expects a smooth transition as it brings Lifestyle Tours into the fold.
“The greatest thing is these customers are used to our buses,” Kaufman said. “They’ve already been on them. They’re familiar with our brand. They love our drivers.”
Timi’s Tours announced the news with a 7-minute video created by Terrapin Blue that tells the history of the two companies and how they began working together five years ago. It was filmed in Moweaqua and Evansville.
In the video, Timi talks about her first career working for her family’s jewelry store and doing direct sales for the Longaberger basket company, which led to organizing tours to the company’s famed headquarters in Newark, Ohio. When she needed extra money to cover her family’s health insurance costs, she decided to organize bus tours. With her first trip on Sept. 6, 2006, she quickly discovered there was demand in her central Illinois community.
“We went to see ‘Menopause The Musical.’ I sold that trip out in five days. This area was really hungry for experiences like that,” she said. “And so I quickly thought that I would probably do large trips. But then I decided that I needed to do day trips to get people used to us. We jumped in with both feet and did New York City very quickly, a place I had never been to, and now we’ve been there probably 50 times. We also did Hawaii in the early stages. And, of course, we do that every year as well.”
Jack, who was 12 when his mom started Timi’s Tours, grew up in the business.
“I’ve been around the industry for most of my teenage and adult life,” said Kaufman, who fondly recalls his duties, from washing buses to changing oil to now overseeing day-to-day operations. “I absolutely love the industry and wouldn’t ever do anything different with my life.”
Focus on passenger experience
The goal of Timi’s Tours is to give guests the best possible experience, whether they are on a charter or a tour trip.
“We get to take people to fun things most of the time. We’re taking a soccer team to their game, or we’re taking kids to a museum on a field trip, or taking a group of seniors to see the ocean for the first time,” Hall-Kaufman said.
Meyer had the same approach when he started Lifestyle Tours in 1983 after leaving a job. He told a friend that he was thinking his next chapter might be to start a tour business because he had watched a lot of motorcoaches stop in his town on their way to a World’s Fair in Tennessee.
“I thought to myself, I can do what those guys are doing,” Meyer said. “And so that summer, I chartered a motorcoach and we started Lifestyle Tours.”
Another good decision he made was working with Timi’s Tours.
“They have provided our travelers with new motorcoaches, nice amenities and the same wonderful drivers that we’ve worked with in the past,” said Meyer, who added that he is confident his passengers will receive the same quality from Timi’s Tours that Lifestyle Tours has provided since 1983.
Hall-Kaufman says she’s glad to reconnect to her southern Indiana roots.
“We’re so excited to be coming home to Evansville. And we know that Ken has done an amazing job over the last 40 years. He truly is a pioneer in group travel, and his story is amazing. We’re just excited to continue that legacy and put our spin on it and continue to provide these customers with what they’ve come to expect.”