Living the Dream
Multigenerational family business celebrates 34 years of business
Photographer / Jubilee Edgell
When American Dream Tours opened 34 years ago, mother-daughter duo Connie Ullery and Melinda Hawkins didn’t intend for it to become a multigenerational family business. Melinda, the current owner, took over in 2011 after her mother suddenly passed away. She has many fond memories of growing up in the business and taking trips with her mom, so it seemed only natural for her to take over the company.
“I’ve been in the business off and on in different ways my whole life. In the beginning, I escorted tours. I was trained to escort tours before I could even drive,” Melinda laughs. “Then, I went to nursing school, and I had a family. Then I came back and would occasionally escort tours, and then in 2011 when [my mom] passed, that’s when I took over the business full-time.”
A seamless transition after Connie’s passing was important to customers. They were pleasantly surprised when Melinda took over after worrying that things would be vastly different.
“People have commented that when she passed away, things would be different, but it made a smooth transition. There’s other companies that we often end up with their travelers, because [customers say] their trips aren’t as high quality as they used to be,” she says. “We were able to keep things running all the same.”
Today, Melinda’s daughter, Sarah, is becoming more and more involved in the company. Encouraged by the great memories she has going on trips with her mother and grandmother, Sarah started helping out around the office.
“She is great at technology,” Melinda says. “She has been here in the office for over a year, and even when she’s not here, she’s working on stuff, like our website development.”
Having a good website is vital, as that is where old and new customers alike learn about the multitude of group trips being offered by American Dream Tours. The trips range hugely in length, location, and interest. This year, they are escorting 43 trips.
“We do tours ranging from one day tours, like dinner theatre in Chicago, to two to three-day tours, and we do everything up to two weeks. We even do international tours, like Iceland, Ireland, Australia,” Melinda says. “This year, we’re doing a Danube River tour… We try to do tours that make everybody happy, and we try to do a variety of interests.”
If the sheer mass of options isn’t enough to convince you to travel with them, Melinda notes how important good customer service is to them.
“We really, really work hard at treating others like we want to be treated,” she says. “We often hear that we’re the friendliest company that people have ever traveled with.”
If you would like to take a trip with American Dream Tours, you can call them at 574-936-5677. You can visit them online at americandreatours.biz. Their office is open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.