Three taxi companies in Wilmington have a new owner and are now operating under the brands Taxi Taxi of Wilmington and Yellow Cab of Wilmington.
Taxi USA purchased Lett’s Taxi, Carolina Yellow Cab and Katt’s Taxi in September for an undisclosed amount. The same company also owns Yellow Cab Charlotte, Taxi Taxi Raleigh, Taxi Taxi Nashville and Taxi 7 Louisville.
As a result of the local acquisitions, Taxi Taxi of Wilmington holds 76 of the city’s 155 cab permits, said Michael Solomon, president of the Taxi USA companies.
“We’re in Raleigh and in Charlotte. It just made sense to grow in North Carolina,” he said, adding that Taxi USA looks at demographics, cities' codes and opportunities for purchases, among other factors, when deciding where to expand. The owners of Taxi USA also have cab operations in Arlington, Virginia, and throughout California, with nearly 4,000 cabs total.
“The opportunity [in Wilmington] came before us, and we liked Mark and his operation and thought he’d be a great asset to our team and so would his companies, so we bought those from him,” said Solomon, referring to Mark Pacheco, former owner of Lett’s Taxi and Carolina Yellow Cab. The company purchased Katt's Taxi from Shuk LLC.
Pacheco also sold his limousine operation to Eric Bennett, who has worked in the taxi and limo market for decades in Wilmington.
Bennett, who did not disclose the purchase price, said he is keeping the name for Lett's Limousine, which has a fleet of five vehicles.
While Carolina Yellow Cab is now known as Yellow Cab of Wilmington, the name Katt’s Taxi will be phased out, Solomon said.
Pacheco is now the general manager of Taxi Taxi of Wilmington and Yellow Cab of Wilmington. The new Wilmington operation has about 50 cabs on the road, with enough permits to allow for expansion, Solomon said.
It will take time, likely until April, for the full transition of the former taxi companies to be complete, and the changes include refurbishing or replacing some vehicles. The new owner has already implemented new technology in the form of back-seat credit card machines, GPS dispatching, tracking and booking, and security cameras, he said.
“We operate a little differently but ultimately somebody calls for a cab, and we try to respond at a reasonable time,” Solomon said.
Those in need of a cab can order one from Taxi Taxi of Wilmington or Yellow Cab online, by texting or through a phone call or an app. They can also pay through an app, with a credit card or cash.
As for the impact of Uber on the Wilmington cabs, Solomon said, “Uber has affected some cab operators in this country drastically. If you don’t run a clean, neat and polite operation, you didn’t reinvest in your fleet and upgrade your cars, don’t provide technology and really go out there and work your business, Uber can hurt you really bad.”
But in the case of Taxi Taxi and the other Taxi USA brands, “there’s still way more rides than we can actually pick up, and that is something to be said about the service.”
He said the company’s motto is “neat, clean and polite” and company employees perform white glove checks of vehicles at the company’s locations.
When it comes to technology, he said, “We constantly are on the forefront of what’s the best thing out there.”
The technology Taxi USA uses, including Google mapping, “gives us the ability to respond faster with a more direct route, considering weather and traffic and construction, all delays,” Solomon said.
Deploying such technology in Raleigh, for example, has shaved Taxi Taxi Raleigh’s response times from an average of 12-14 minutes to 6-8 minutes, he said. Solomon said the closest car to the caller in need of a ride is the one dispatched.
Referring to Taxi Taxi of Wilmington, Solomon said transitions from one owner to another can take time, energy and money. But the ultimate goal is to provide riders with safe rides as quickly as possible.
“The city has an expectation that we’ll deliver and the consumer has an even greater expectation, and we intend to do just that,” Solomon said.