Dwarfed by the outsized Hummer limousines that litter the parking lot, J.R. Mills studies the white 2010 Chrysler 300 custom limo that Ali Shirazi drove out for him.
As Shirazi – owner of Ali Baba Limousine in East Falls – exits with the Chrysler, Mills takes in the features unique to this domestic Goliath.
Chrome rims. Vertical Ferrari doors up front. For potential passengers like Mills, an upward-opening “jet” portal that allows mid-ship entry.
But the true object of interest lies within.
“Does this have Bose?” he asks Shirazi, investigating the car’s sound system.
Obligingly, Shirazi cranks up the volume of the adult contemporary music to a point where one needs to shout to be heard.
It’s crystal clear. Sold!
‘The one with the exotic cars’
For the prom-goer on the move, a limousine is an absolute must. If you’re looking to get there in conspicuous fashion, Ali Shirazi is the man to call.
Seated behind a desk inside his Persian-tinged East Falls establishment, Shirazi interweaves tales of limo lore, Philadelphia politics, as well as his own rise into prominence as one of the city’s preferred livery services. And competition is stiff – according to the Philadelphia Parking Authority, there are 113 limousine operators licensed to operate in the city, and 933 registered vehicles.
Pursuant to prom, however, he relates that patrons are drawn to him because of the variety of his fleet.
“I’m the one with the exotic cars that you can’t find other places,” he declares.
Prices for six hours of service range anywhere from $600 to $1,600, says Shirazi, depending upon the vehicle selected. For the 10-seat Chrysler 300, the price tag for the evening is $800 for the first three hours, and $200 for each additional hour.
“It’s the most popular choice,” says Peter Panek, Shirazi’s mechanic. Referencing the car’s uniqueness, he observes that most people aren’t aware that it is a Chrysler.
“They think it’s a Rolls-Royce,” he said.
The dress, the date and the limo
If you want to rent Ali Baba’s Chrysler 300 for your high school prom on June 1– too bad. It’s been snatched up already by Mills’ younger sister Betty. She’s a senior at Bok Technical High School in South Philly, and is a forward thinker when it comes to prom.
Betty’s $375 custom dress is being made, and the deposit on the limo is paid in full. With her family and her date in tow, she stopped by the East Falls showroom on Monday to get a look at her ride.
Her brother has patronized Shirazi’s since his own prom days. He steered Betty to Ali Baba, citing the service and the selection of high-quality vehicles.
“He’s the only one with the Chrysler,” notes J.R.
As Betty and her suitor Thomas Brown inspect the vehicle, smiles – and iPhone cameras – emerge.
Overlooking the scene is Betty’s mother, Darlene Mills.
She’s already put two children through prom, but wants everything to be perfect for her youngest.
“She’s the last one,” Darlene says. “She’s my girl, so I’ve got to do it right.”
Helping to create a night to remember
Customer satisfaction is the bottom line for Shirazi, an East Falls resident and alumnus of Philadelphia University, then the Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science.
“It’s a special night,” he says. “It’s something they’re going to remember for the rest of their life.”
Asked for his favorite prom memories, he recalls not a single episode but a composite experience.
“The simplest answer,” he says, “is that when I see regular people, I see how excited and how happy everyone is.”
“They laugh, and they dance,” he continues. “Honest to god, that’s the best part.”
In regard to the darker side of prom – drinking and drugs – he tells that he doesn’t see any evidence of that “anymore.” Shirazi doesn’t elaborate on prior episodes.
Instead, what he sees are prom-goers getting along with each other, noting an absence of what he termed “tension.”
“They’re talking to each other and being nice” he continues. “99-percent of the time, they act very civilized – which is very impressive.”
Unlike, that is, those on the verge of adulthood and responsibility.
“The things that sometimes get crazy are bachelor’s parties,” Shirazi concludes.
This is the fourth installment of the “Preparing for Prom” series on NewsWorks.