Peoria Charter Coach was founded in 1941 when Walter Winkler traded in the family car and received a loan from his sister to buy a new bus. “There was gas rationing during the 1940s,” says owner Bill Winkler. “My grandfather saw this as an opportunity to transport Caterpillar workers from the Spring Bay area to a new plant in Peoria.”
Back then, the company was known as the Spring Bay Lacon Bus Company. During the post-war period, the demand for charters increased, and Winkler expanded the business with additional buses—growth which continues to this day.
As Peoria Charter Coach celebrates its 75th anniversary in 2016, the family business continues to grow and thrive across Illinois. And with Jake Winkler, son of owners Bill and Cindy Winkler, serving as account executive and customer service manager, it has now reached its fourth generation of family involvement.
Having grown considerably in recent years, Peoria Charter now operates a diversified fleet of 64 motor coaches—including 55- and 38-passenger buses, as well as as mini-buses for smaller groups. Although the company recently discontinued the Midway Airport stop, it did so while doubling the number of Chicago-area destinations—and announcing a significant price decrease for online bookings.
The company has also launched a full-service travel agency, Peoria Charter Travel, with the ability to sell airline tickets, book vacations and perform other travel services. The agency started development in 2013, and became fully functional in 2015. “Our goal—with our connections to the [Peoria International Airport]—is to be able to offer the best price on any trip,” adds Jake Winkler.
“We are one of the largest privately-owned charter bus companies in the state of Illinois, and we hope to continue our growth throughout,” Winkler continues. “We have a very strong hold on Peoria… but we’re open to even reach further and aid travelers across the state.”