One of things that’s most enjoyable about work at an agency is learning so much about different companies – from the business models they operate through to the characters they employ. Every business has a story just beneath the surface, even if the sector they are in is unglamourous or even dull on the surface. This recent short interview in The Atlantic on what it’s like to run a car park business in New York reminded me of one of those initial conversations of discovery with a new client:
Bourree Lam: How did iPark start? And how did you get involved in it?
Bill Lerner: My father had a small company in the 1960s and 1970s, and I came to work for him in 1978 and started growing my own parking company. It became iPark just recently, in the last couple of years. It was known as Imperial for about 20 plus years. The reason we chose iPark was that it’s much more searchable on the internet.
Lam: How did your father get into the parking business?
Lerner: His company was called LPS, for Lerner Parking Systems. He was sort of forced into the parking business. His father, my grandfather, ran a gas station down on Centre Street. Unfortunately, my grandfather passed away at a very young age and my father was forced to run the gas station and the parking lot that was adjacent to it. That’s where he saw the need for parking in the city of New York, when people came to work during the day. And especially after World War II, when all the G.I.s were coming back from Europe and they had learned to drive Jeeps while over in Europe. They were given money by the government under the G.I. Bill.
So he saw the trend and the growing need for parking in the city. If you look at pictures prior to World War II in the streets of New York, you’ll see a handful of cars going up and down the avenues, versus today when you can see—it’s obviously jammed. So the volume of cars prior to World War II in Manhattan were minimal compared to what they are today, and it was really the result of the war and people learning how to drive that really sparked the parking industry. It really created a need to have garages in New York.