ALEXANDRIA, VA- With years as a police officer under his belt, Adam Stampfel knows what getting a DWI can do to a person. Driving drunk and getting into a fatal accident is horrible for everyone involved, but even getting caught for having a taillight out or at a sobriety checkpoint can mean loss of license, loss of job, thousands of dollars in fines and insurance, and even spending a night in jail.
Because Stampfel has seen up close what a DWI can do, he started The Getaway Driver, a van service that specializes in being the designated driver for winery tours, brewery visits, and other safe outings so that family and friends can celebrate without worrying about drinking.
Let’s face it: The designated driver doesn’t have as much fun as everyone else. “We’ve all been that guy,” Stampfel says. “Why not let me be that guy?”
Stampfel got the idea for the van service last year, on a family trip across country when he was “that guy” behind the wheel the whole time. His career in police work had run its course and it was time to try something else. “It’s a long drive across South Dakota in the rain,” he says. Gathering ideas from the family was “like a brain storming session” and The Getaway Driver was born. Soon after, he bought the van.
It’s a tall van that can comfortably seat 15 people, so riders won’t feel cramped on a bachelor or bachelorette party, winery tour, or bar crawl. And drinking is not required, so if your group simply wants to go to a museum, out to dinner, or to a site-seeing event, the van can accommodate all of those activities. That includes wedding parties and graduation night soirees too.
But the wineries are where it started and so far Stampfel is working with three in the Virginia countryside: Pearmund, Vint Hill, and Effingham, which are all related through shared management or ownership, but unique in their own right. Adam has learned their stories and narrates a tour as they travel to each.
“I give people a bit of background, not just a shuttle bus to the winery,” he says. Vint Hill, for example, was a U.S. Army base from 1940 to 1980 because it could receive particular radio frequencies in that location, and Pearmund, near Broad Run, has the oldest Chardonnay vines in Virginia.
When planning an outing, Adam works out the logistics and was meeting groups by the King Street Metro, but now meets them across the street by Joe Theismann’s restaurant. (Metro’s planned 15-week closure of all Alexandria stations has complicated many business owners’ logistics.) Everyone gets a custom The Getaway Driver bag, with snacks, water, and company literature, and they get underway.
One popular route he’s done a few times starts with a tour of the Lee-Fendall Houseon North Washington Street, then down the parkway to Mount Vernon for more George Washington facts, and then back to Port City Brewery on Wheeler Avenue.
Another time a corporate group at the Hotel Indigo was looking for a unique experience and The Getaway Driver delivered.
For a bachelorette party, they traveled to Vint Hill, and then to Old Bust Head Brewing Company near the winery. The chatter increased on the way home. “That was a good group for me,” he says. “It got a little loud, but they had a good time and no one got sick.”
Another time, someone did get sick, and Stampfel stocks paper towels for such emergencies. “She indulged a little too much,” he says. “I heard a noise, a noise I know too well,” he says, referring to traveling with his young kids in the past. “I charge a cleaning fee for something like that.”
Why not call Uber or Lyft? With those services, prices vary depending on the time of travel, and it’s not uncommon for those drivers to pick up other passenger(s) along the way. Plus, they often use economy cars that cannot carry more than a few people.
“I can carry more people and it will be a lot more comfortable,” Stampfel says. “I deliver a certain level of professionalism, making sure people get to these places safely and get home safely.” Parking in Old Town can be a problem, and a big van makes it worse, but he’s not shaken by that either. “I’m from New York City, I can parallel park anything,” he says.
The Getaway Driver is still a learn-as-you-go enterprise, and Stampfel is trying out different ways to get his business known: social media, word of mouth, and print advertising, and he’s taking marketing classes. The Getaway Driver’s first summer is coming up, and warm weather occasions are flourishing.