Bulldog Tours : Charleston, SC : Charleston's Dark Side...
John Lavern loves his job. He’s always enjoyed showing people around his hometown, giving up little bits of juicy information about historic sites and interesting people. As the owner of Bulldog Tours, he has the chance to meet and interact with visitors and locals alike.
“It started in 2001 as a hobby, and it has taken off,” LaVerne said. “I had been a tour guide since I graduated from The Citadel in ’91.”
As a graduate of a prestigious institution of higher learning, LaVerne always thought he’d hold down a regular job. But as his hobby turned into a viable business venture, he gave up that silly notion to concentrate on exposing Charleston’s beauty and deep, dark secrets.
Today, Bulldog Tours employs 50 tour guides who entertain and inform about 60,000 people annually. The “Charleston Ghost and Dungeon Tour,” Bulldog’s first tour, proved so popular that “The Dark Side of Charleston Tour” was added within a year. In 2003, the “Charleston Ghost and Graveyard Tour” became the company’s third nighttime walk.
With the “dark side” of his business turning a profit, LaVerne ventured into the daylight hours, acquiring The Charleston Stroll in 2006. Just two years later, he tapped into another side of the business when he purchased Culinary Tours of Charleston. His sideline has become a 360-day-a-year, day-and-night proposition. He loves every minute of it and the city that makes it all possible.
In return, through donating a portion of its ticket sales, Bulldog Tours is helping to preserve Charleston’s historic structures. To date, $1.5 million has gone to The Old Exchange Building, The Old City Jail and the Circular Congregational Church.
“It’s an honor to showcase my town,” LaVerne said.