INDIANAPOLIS — With a slogan like “We’ll drive you to drink,” it should be no surprise the idea for Indy JoyRides evolved from a bunch of college kids sitting around enjoying some adult beverages.
Wouldn’t it be neat, they reasoned, to have their own personal designated driver to take them to all their favorite breweries, allowing them to drink and make merry while never worrying about how they’d make it to the next stop.
Apparently, it was still a good idea the next morning, because it wasn’t long after that New Palestine native Matthew Miessen, co-owner of Indy JoyRides, and a fraternity brother from Purdue University bought a bus from a fellow fraternity brother’s parents and set their plan in motion.
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At first, it was just for fun, said Miessen, who graduated from Purdue with an engineering degree in 2008. Before buying the bus, he and friends had borrowed the vehicle for tailgate parties. Once the bus was his, Miessen continued the tailgating tradition but also rented the bus out to friends and family. Two years ago, word of mouth turned their party on wheels into a business. With the boom of the craft brew industry, Miessen said, the concept has taken off.
Today, Indy JoyRides specializes in tours to local breweries, wineries and distilleries, taking groups from place to place, where they enjoy samples and discounts at each stop while someone else worries about the transportation.
What makes the Indy JoyRides bus different from regular party buses is the configuration of the interior, Miessen said. Miessen put his engineering degree to work to turn the retired school bus into a conversation-friendly bar on wheels. It features a center bar, horseshoe-shaped seating for 14, a sound system and an interior painted with chalkboard paint, which allows passengers the ability to customize their ride.
“People seem to like drinking and doodling,” Miessen said. “There’s always some interesting art after the ride. It tells the story of the trip.”
Miessen will be the first to tell you he doesn’t know much about marketing, but business has picked up since he took on a new partner. Chad Frazell is another of Miessen’s Purdue fraternity brothers, and his area of expertise is in social media and acquiring new customers.
Frazell, who has been with the Indy JoyRides for six months, said it’s been exciting to watch the increase in business. Previously, the venture relied on word of mouth, but an investment in marketing the service has really paid off, he said.
“People are starting to find us through Google searches,” Frazell said. “We’re also getting a lot of repeat business.”
A snazzy new website features a description of tours, the ability to customize a tour and book online, a blog and photos of people enjoying their ride. With more than 800 likes, the Facebook page is getting some traffic, too.
Tours are available seven days a week and generally leave from the Omni Hotel in downtown Indianapolis, but there is lots of room for customization, Miessen said. The Indy JoyRides bus is also available for parties and special events and will go just about anywhere the passengers deem worthy. Most tours run about 3½ hours.
As a craft beer aficionado, one of the perks of being a co-owner of Indy JoyRides is that Miessen is getting to know all the local hot spots. He and Frazell have their favorites, but they prefer to let their customers choose and are happy to offer recommendations.
Indy JoyRides is now booking tours for New Year’s Eve.
“We’re not a taxi service,” Miessen said. “But if there’s a party out there that needs a designated driver, we’re ready.”