HOW THE STORY BEGAN
In the late 1800s, an Italian immigrant named Eugenio LaMacchia settled into Kenosha, Wisconsin, and established a variety of businesses and services in the community. One of the services he provided out of his grocery store was steamship travel. Eugenio was fulfilling the growing need of bringing immigrants (primarily Italian) to the new country as well as reuniting families who already had loved ones here.
Eugenio’s son, Edmund, was born in 1905, and after graduation from Marquette University, he established the Edmund LaMacchia Agency in 1931. Continuing to fill the needs of the local community, Edmund’s services included: translation, insurance, accounting, tax preparation and transportation. As the demand for transportation increased over the years, travel became more and more popular.
During the ’40s and ’50s, when most other women were staying home, Edmunds wife, Emma LaMacchia, worked with her husband in the office and was the driving force behind growing their airline appointments. Because of Emma’s vision on how the travel industry was growing, LaMacchia Travel became one of the first agencies in Wisconsin to receive their airline appointments. By raising six children and working at the agency into her 80’s, Emma was known as a true pioneer and female leader.
TRULY A FAMILY BUSINESS
Eugene LaMacchia was the eldest of the six kids, and like his father, after graduating from Marquette University, returned to Kenosha where he continued working the family businesses. Eugene brought a more sophisticated approach to the Agency as it grew beyond just the traditional, Italian clientele. By the mid-’60s, the Travel Agency became their primary business, as travel began to rapidly increase. Bill LaMacchia, the second eldest son, came to work at the agency, eventually taking what he learned to Milwaukee where he established and operated The Mark Travel Corporation for over 45 years.
A considerable shift in the travel industry was seen in the early ’70s. Clientele were not just purchasing airline tickets to go visit family and friends, but were now interested in leisure vacations, including places such as Las Vegas, Hawaii, Jamaica, the Caribbean and Europe. Cruise travel also became more affordable for the masses, which increased its popularity tremendously. Business began to soar when Eugene identified early on that a great marketing plan and creative print was necessary to continue to grow the business.
CONTINUING THE TRADITION
For most of the family, the agency was their first job, whether it was cleaning the office during the Summer or working in the management of the day-to-day responsibilities. In the early 80’s, while in High School, Tom Karnes, the Grandson of Edmund, joined his Grandma Emma and Uncle Eugene at the office. When Charter flights were introduced in the ’80s to places such as Las Vegas, Mexico, Jamaica and Hawaii, a surge in travel was created, as it appeared that everyone was now traveling. What Tom thought would be a job to earn a few bucks throughout High School, ended up being a conscience career choice.
By the ’90s, Tom had moved from “Materials Distribution Manager” (stamping brochures & filing) to Office Manager. Eugene, Emma and Tom worked diligently to grow their leisure business by focusing on service and value. Enter the World Wide Web.
A WHOLE NEW WORLD
The World Wide Web was fast becoming a major factor in the travel industry, changing the way people researched and purchased travel. Many agencies were not able to embrace the changes that were happening, and many were forced to close during this transitional period. The world and the industry, were dealt another severe blow with the events of September 11, 2001. During this time, the team at LaMacchia Travel remained positive and committed, focusing on what the future of travel would look like. It was known that no matter what changes were ahead, great service and customer satisfaction would always be at the cornerstone.
As travel planning shifted from retail travel agencies to online providers, more and more people had figured travel agencies were a thing of the past, and for many, that was true. LaMacchia Travel identified what products still needed that level of service and knowledge and focused specifically on those, which in turn, allowed the others to fall to the internet. Knowing that vendor relationships would be key to all future endeavors and provide clients with experiences and services that could never be replicated online, Eugene and Tom established close bonds with the major airlines, tour operators and cruise lines.
In 2009, LaMacchia Travel was purchased by the current owners, Tom and Monica Karnes. This made them third-generation owners and the fourth generation in the travel business. With a great team of travel specialists and a renewed vision of the future, things were taking off.
LaMacchia Travel laid the groundwork to become an industry leader by diversifying and leveraging strengths and relationships when another boom in leisure travel was seen in 2010. Five years down the road, in 2015, LovinAway became the first new company to be introduced by Tom and Monica. LovinAway is a national brand that was established to capture the fast-growing destination wedding and romance business outside of the Greater Southeastern Wisconsin and Northeastern Illinois markets.
Both LaMacchia Travel and LovinAway were growing rapidly and being recognized as industry leaders based on their customer service, marketing initiatives and sales production.
NECESSITY IS THE MOTHER OF INVENTION
Things were moving along exceptionally well as Tom and Monica were investing in staffing, training, technology, resources, support and all things required to get to a “next level” status.
Unfortunately, things took a turn in the year 2020 when the Coronavirus Pandemic hit globally. To say the Pandemic was devastating to the travel industry would be an understatement. The entire world shut down, and all of the appropriate business actions were implemented; layoffs, eliminated expenses, lease renegotiations, freeze all spending...etc. However, a complete shutdown was never an option. LaMacchia Travel and LovinAway had too many customers affected by the cancellations and pending refunds who needed assistance.
THEN COMES THE JET STREAM
Early in the Pandemic, while Tom and Monica were working from home and discussing what the future would look like, they decided it would be a good idea to create a community for agents and advisors that were displaced during the Pandemic. This community would provide support, infrastructure, mentorship, vendor relations, and a true sense of belonging.
In the late end of 2020, LaMacchia Jet Stream was established and became the third enterprise in the LaMacchia Travel family. LaMacchia Jet Stream is a boutique host agency for like-minded advisors to not only call home but to assist in building. Tom and Monica’s commitment to the Jet Stream members is as focused as their commitment to all of the LaMacchia customers.
THE FUTURE IS WHAT WE MAKE IT
From starting as a secondary business out of their family-owned business to becoming a three enterprise company, LaMacchia Travel is now celebrating its 90th year around the sun! As much as they would love to know what Eugenio, Edmund, Emma and Eugene have to say about the current version of LaMacchia Travel, they know they would be proud to see the milestones this company went through, and that it’s still standing better than ever. Although they can’t see the reaction of those who came before them, the most important is knowing what clients have to say about LaMacchia Travel. As always, the clients are at the forefront of all current and future decisions. 90 years is amazing, but ensuring the happiness of tomorrow’s client is even better.