Few things evoke a sense of luxury and extravagance like a gleaming limousine.
From the exaggerated wheelbase to the blacked-out windows, there is something about a stretched Cadillac, Lincoln or Hummer gliding down the boulevard or perched outside a tony club that spells: F-I-L-T-H-Y R-I-C-H (or trying to look it).
But Valley limo operators are feeling the effects of the recession.
In the past two years, limousines have increasingly taken a spacious back seat to less flamboyant wheels for teens on prom night, club-hopping hipsters out on the town, couples budgeting for a wedding and companies pinching pennies on executive travel.
"I've never seen it like this before," said Gerald Smith, owner of The Classic Status limousine service in Visalia. "Until the end of 2007, this was a growth business. That all changed in 2008 and 2009."