Party on wheels
West Linn couple's party bus provides 'the ultimate party experience'
It could be said that whatever happens on the party bus stays on the party bus. Because when it comes to renting out their new business on wheels, Graham and Jennifer Berry are open to, well, almost anything, as long as it's not illegal.
'The first question we get is, 'Where's the stripper pole?'' Jennifer said with a laugh.
The West Linn couple chose not to add that particular accessory to the bus they bought and remodeled in September. Instead, they decked it out with luxurious leather seats, beverage stations and flat-screen TVs.
The result, Lake Oswego-based business VIP-PDX, is all about luxury, class and unparalleled service - 'the ultimate party experience.'
The bus can be used for a variety of purposes: bachelor/bachelorette parties, wine tasting in the Willamette Valley, 21st birthdays, clubbing in downtown Portland or tailgating at a football game.
'We go wherever the party is,' Graham said.
According to the Berrys, their upscale vehicle is classy enough for a corporate event and relaxed enough for a keg party. Graham, a native of London, hosts each event to make sure his clients' requests are met.
'We'll cater to anything you want,' he said. 'We don't want 'no' to be in our vocabulary.'
The Berrys came up with the idea for the business when they returned from working on Carnival cruise ships, where Jennifer danced in shows and Graham worked in the casinos.
At sea, it was their responsibility to make sure vacationers always had fun and cut loose. So when they moved to the Portland area - where Jennifer grew up - and then had their two kids, it felt like the entertainment aspect of their lives was missing.
'There's so much responsibility and seriousness here, we wanted to bring fun back to the 'land people,'' Jennifer said.
First, they began toying with the idea of making a pink 'bride's ride,' but wanted to expand that concept.
As they asked their friends and relatives for feedback, they found two characteristics not included in limos and stretch SUVs - headroom and a spacious bathroom.
A bus seemed to be the natural option, especially because Graham saw similar businesses in his native London. They realized that if they made their business a reality, it would be the only one of its kind in Portland.
The Berrys sold their Lake Oswego home to fund the purchase of a former mobile office - a tour bus that didn't have flooring or much else inside.
With the help of Rabe Upholstery in Woodburn and Advanced RV in Salem, the Berrys redesigned the interior to their specifications.
They also hired a 12-year TriMet employee, Patti Jensen, as its first driver.
The total project, kept inside a storage facility in Wilsonville, cost the Berrys about $100,000.
So far, the Berrys have donated rental time to charity, including the Lake Oswego High School annual auction, where two trips raised $5,600 for the school.
And they can't wait for the real fun to begin - prom time and wedding season is coming up soon.
'It's a crapshoot,' Jennifer said of their potential for success. 'But Portland is expanding and more people are coming here because they see how great it is.'
'We're really just at the gate right now,' Graham chimed in.
Amenities include a multi-disc CD player, surround sound, a selection of DVDs, a Playstation and three TVs ('So you don't miss a play,' Graham adds).
'The first time people walk in and see it, their eyes just open up wide, like 'Wow,'' Jennifer said. 'They think something like this isn't attainable, but it is. They can party like a rock star.'
Cost to rent the bus is $225 per hour on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays and $200 per hour Mondays through Thursdays.
Renters must pay 50 percent of their total bill before they take the bus out - which holds a maximum of 30 people - out on the road.
'The more people that get on the bus, the less expensive it is,' Graham noted. 'If you get 22 of your friends together and enjoy the space, it won't break the bank.'
Rules are simple: No drugs, no smoking, no pets and no violence - just common sense.
'When we take out a group of kids, their parents can trust that they're in a safe place,' Jennifer said.
For more information on VIP-PDX, call 503-348-3233 or go online to www.vippdx.com.