Catonsville Patch: How long have you been in business in Catonsville?
Bridget Peirson: I have a long history in the travel business, but I opened this business in Catonsville in 1975. We started Peirson Travel on Edmondson Avenue, then moved over to Frederick Road in ‘84 or ‘85. We just moved to this new location six months ago.
Patch: Tell us about your history in the business.
Peirson: I always knew this was the business for me. I was born in Ireland, but I went to school in London. When I was fourteen, I begged my neighborhood travel agent for a job. I went to school and I worked there during the day, and I chamber-maided at the Cumberland Hotel in Marble Arch at night. That’s how I got my start!
Patch: Why did you choose Catonsville?
Peirson: When I moved here from Ireland, I married a man from an old Catonsville family and I liked Catonsville. I actually started my first travel business in Kansas City, but then my husband wanted to come back here to be near his family.
Patch: How has your business changed over time?
Peirson: Back in the day, people just went to Ocean City in the summer and maybe Bermuda in the winter. Now, we send people all over the world.
Of course the internet has had an impact on our business, but you’d be surprised how many people come to us to get them out of a jam, after they have tried to book travel on the internet. They find out that we can get them better prices, we make it clear exactly what they’re buying, we help them with documentation. We are a fully accredited travel agency which can help with all aspects of travel, and there is no fee for us planning or booking trips.
Patch: What do you like about being in Catonsville?
Peirson: I like the small town feel of Catonsville. Everybody knows everybody and people are very helpful. We have many faithful customers and we count on their referrals. Word of mouth is our best marketing tool.
Our business goes way beyond Catonsville though; we are not a small business any more.
Patch: How has the business expanded?
Peirson: In November of 2005, we were bought out by a company called Life, Incorporated. They provide services for people with disabilities and we do a niche market for travel for people with all kinds of disabilities. We work with the Make-A Wish Foundation and other organizations.
But Richard Purdy and I still run the business. Richard is my main man; he has been with me for thirty years.
Patch: What other services do you do?
Peirson: We really hold our customers’ hands. We ask their budget, their desires and we put everything together for them. We do a lot of specialty travel, private itineraries; we do a lot of group travel as well: cruises and tours. One of our agents specializes in group travel for people in wheelchairs. And our specialty travel area is Ireland and the British Isles.
Patch: What is your busiest time of year?
Peirson: High season for us is after back-to-school through to April 15. And during a really bad winter, people call us and say . . .Get me out of here, right now!
Patch: What are you proud of?
Peirson: I’m a self-made woman. I came from Ireland and started from total scratch. I’ve spent most of my life just working hard and never stepped back to see what I had accomplished. I have a successful business and I raised a child with disabilities.
Patch: What’s your favorite thing about your work?
Peirson: I love to travel and I love people.
Patch: What are you looking forward to?
Peirson: Retirement! But that said, I’m 70 years old and I’m still working hard and learning new things every day. I suppose I’ll retire someday, but I don’t know when.
Patch: You have run your own business for a long time. What's your best advice to someone who is thinking about starting a business?
Peirson: Make sure that you are within your means. You have to have enough capital.
Patch: What is one thing you think is needed in the business community?
Peirson: I’d like to see businesses working with each other more to help grow the climate for business in Catonsville. I’m already getting fired up with ideas just thinking about it!