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If you’re like me, you haven’t been on a school bus in a very long time. And chances are, you’ve never been on one with a glass of wine in your hand. But that’s exactly where I was in early February, sipping a mimosa and dancing in my seat to the song “Brick House.”

“The back roads get very bumpy,” says our driver, Maria Czyzewski. “Hold onto your drinks!”

This, of course, was no ordinary school bus. We were on a tour with The Savory Lane, which runs luxury day trips to wineries, breweries, bookstores, distilleries, farms, cheese shops, and other local small businesses on a bus that’s been beautifully renovated and reimagined into a kind of traveling farmhouse bistro.

Gone is the bus’s bright-yellow exterior, rows of seats, and tin-can aesthetic. Instead, the sage green bus has a beautifully finished wood ceiling and floor; oval tables flanked by plush-cushioned bench seats for 24 guests; white, wainscoted accent walls; and strings of pretty fairy lights. There’s even a mini kitchen, a bathroom, and a sound system with karaoke (more on that, later), along with décor that changes with the holidays and seasons.

Photograph by Doug Levy

Czyzewski and her sister, Lisa Galloni, the co-owners and cofounders of The Savory Lane, were inspired to start their business during the pandemic.

“We had all gone through Covid, and a lot of us felt very disconnected, and a lot of small businesses suffered,” Galloni says. “My thought was, let’s get people together again, and hang out and laugh and talk and try and support these local businesses that took a hit.”

They realized that they loved “food, farms, and barns” and brainstormed a slew of tours that they thought people would enjoy. Then, they bought a school bus, had it refurbished for tour groups, and launched the company.

Their first tour was in October 2022, when they took a corporate group to downtown Salem for the Halloween festivities. Since then, their tours have expanded to include something for nearly every interest, highlighting local businesses and attractions on the North Shore, New Hampshire, and southern Maine.

Upcoming spring and summer tours include winery tours; taco tours in Manchester, New Hampshire; brewery tours; cheese shop crawls; book shop tours; birdwatching with an expert guide; goat yoga; candle-making classes at Sea Love Candle Bar & Boutique in Portsmouth, New Hampshire; farm tours; tea parties; guided tours with Salem Food Tours, and more. April also saw a special tour to the Vintage Bazaar New England and a “Buds & Brews” tour of a local brewery and dispensary. They also offer private tours.

Patricia Galloni, Lisa Galloni, Marie Czyzewski, and Ava Czyzewski | Photograph by Doug Levy

Part of The Savory Lane’s model is working with other small businesses, not only to explore the amazing diversity and creativity of the region, but also to support local entrepreneurs.

“These small businesses are what New England is all about,” Czyzewski says. “There are so many interesting companies and people that you meet along these journeys.”

Galloni agrees, noting, too, that many of the businesses they work with, like Mill River Winery in Rowley and Salem Food Tours, are women-owned. That’s important to The Savory Lane, which is a women-powered small business, too. Czyzewski and Galloni run the business along with Czyzewski’s daughter, Ava Czyzewski, who handles their social media. Czyzewski and Galloni’s mother helps out, too. She’s responsible for making all the desserts that they serve and the seasonal, cloth napkins they use.

Their small business partnerships are a win-win for everyone.

“When we bring a bus full of people to a small distillery or a bookstore or winery or a candle shop, they’re super excited to be part of tours and see people come through their doors,” Galloni says.

Photograph courtesy of Savory Lane

The experience of taking a tour with The Savory Lane is twofold. Not only do the tours take participants to interesting locations, but there’s also the fun of riding on the bus itself (dubbed “Freddie,” for Czyzewski and Galloni’s grandmother, Elfriede), which is a party on wheels.

Each tour includes mini charcuterie boxes, alcoholic and nonalcoholic drinks, and homemade desserts for every guest. While Czyzewski drives, Galloni serves food and leads the party, encouraging dancing in the aisles and even karaoke, if the group is up for it.

The tour group I was with was, indeed, up for it, especially on the way back from that day’s winery tour, which included tastings at Mill River Winery in Rowley and Squamscott Vineyard & Winery in Newfields, New Hampshire. The dark bus was illuminated by fairy lights, and the guests danced and sang in the aisles, marking the perfect, joyful end to a perfect day.

“I am your DJ! Whatever you want to sing, whatever songs you want, let me know,” Galloni said when she welcomed us onboard. “We will be rocking very soon.”  

And she was right.