A former owner-operator with the defunct Saint City Taxi has revived the cab company mere days after the previous owner decided to close it down.
On Feb. 23, the owner decided to shut down the business, citing increasing maintenance and licensing costs, along with competition with other ride-sharing apps like Uber.
When he heard the news, Douglas Clarke – who ran the delivery side of the business – was left with the same nagging question as some of the drivers: now what?
"I was thinking, you know, that's it for my life in the cab business, I'm going back to trucking. But then I decided, there is something to this delivery side of the business and it would be smart to capitalize on it," Clarke said.
During the cab company's last week, he said he scrambled to separate his delivery service from Saint City Taxi, but felt remorse that St. Albert would be down another cab service.
"Then I had a very good idea ... why not just add a ride service on to my delivery service?"
He said he hoped Saint City Taxi's loyal customers would come back if the ride service was resurrected, and given the chance, many of the company's former drivers would want to continue working with him instead of another cab company.
"I thought, maybe I could draw some of them back and rebuild it," Clarke said.
On March 5, a week after Saint City Taxi officially closed, Clarke reincorporated the cab company under its 'new' name, Saint City Delivery and Ride Service Ltd.
Delivery and ride service is available from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily for people looking to get from point A to point B in St. Albert and Sturgeon County. The number to call is the same as the former delivery service line at 780-619-5050.
Three previous drivers with Saint City joined Clarke's team part-time, along with another full-time delivery person.
When Saint City closed down, former driver Glen Burley went to work full-time for Uber after eight years with the local cab company. When Clarke reached out to ask if he'd work part-time under the new company name, Burley agreed.
"Now I can remain homebound in St. Albert and still help out Doug," he said.
Clarke said the company is following public health safety protocols by giving their drivers gloves and masks, wiping down the cabs with disinfectant wipes, and encouraging riders to pay using apps like Square instead of cash.
With the COVID-19 pandemic, it may seem like a strange time to start a new business, but Clarke said he believes the gamble is worth the risk.
"I'm not sure how sustainable this is going to be in the future – I'm rolling the dice basically," he said. "But what I do understand is that in St. Albert, if someone is loyal to our cab, they'll keep coming back."
Ridership numbers are down as more people stay home during the pandemic, he said, but the number of deliveries has doubled in the last few weeks to 15 to 30 per day.
"We used to haul a lot of people to the bars. Now that the bars aren't open, they have nothing better to do than to stay home and drink," he said. More people are buying alcohol in bulk, he added – two of his recent deliveries were worth more than $200. "They're just getting liquor deliveries as opposed to going out."
Another main reason Clarke decided to bring Saint City Taxi back was to keep a hold on contracts the company previously had with businesses, namely Canadian Tire.
"I was delivering parts, picking up tires, picking up parts and bringing them back to the Canadian Tire service. They wanted us to have the ridership as well because they didn't want to hire a shuttle bus driver just to drive someone home once in a while," Clarke said.
"When I shook their hand, they said if I was going to keep everything the same, they'd keep using it. And that's exactly what I'm doing."