Matt Wilkerson was a staunch patron of Yellow Cab of Lancaster, coming to rely on taxi service as his eyesight deteriorated.
Even during the pandemic, he said he felt he could count on Yellow Cab to bring him to and from restaurants and other places about a mile from his home on West Vine Street in the town of Lancaster. .
“I’ve always been the type to play late at night,” he said, adding that he wasn’t comfortable walking late at night.
Yellow Cab, once Lancaster County’s largest taxi service, quietly ceased operations on Dec. 23, 2021, according to CFO Greg Vannucci. Ahead of the shutdown, Vannucci said the company reached out to a few repeat customers to let them know they would need to find alternate transportation. Wilkerson was not one of them.
Wilkerson said he recently called the cab service to find it was permanently closed. He wasn’t surprised because he had noticed that their hours had been reduced but he was disappointed.
“We spoke to some of our open accounts and warned them that we would not be able to serve the community as we intended,” Vannucci said. “We gave them the opportunity to seek reinforcements.”
Vannucci said COVID-19 put the brakes on the business in 2020 and she never recovered.
“When everything returned to ‘normal’ a lot of independent entrepreneurs didn’t come back,” said Vannucci. “We do a lot of advertising. It was very difficult for the drivers to be there to pick up passengers without knowing where they were. “
They were concerned about bringing COVID back to their families.
Additionally, Vannucci said, auto maintenance and insurance costs are rising. The business model was no longer working, he said.
The company hired drivers as independent contractors: they paid $ 10 an hour to hire a cab and dispatch services and kept everything they did.
Vannucci said owners Jack Schwartz and his brother Tim Schwartz subsidized the business during the pandemic. Jack Schwartz also owns other companies unrelated to the taxi service, including Friendly Transportation, Hertz Rental Lancaster, Lancaster Fleet and Auto, Friendly Messenger Service and the Sunoco A + in Prince and Orange streets.
About six years ago, before ride-sharing services Uber and Lyft entered Lancaster, Yellow Cab had 27 drivers, Vannucci said. When Yellow Cab closed last month, it had seven. Vannucci said he could have hired 12-14 more drivers to keep the business going, but people weren’t interested. Driving taxis can provide a good income, he said, but a paycheck isn’t certain of how regular a job is.
Yellow Cab has no recent records related to the emergency suspension of service and / or discontinuation of service, and there are currently no complaints open against the company with the State Utilities Commission, which regulates taxi companies . It operates under the name Autocab Inc.
Yellow Cab has its roots from Friendly Taxi, which started in 1978 with orange taxis. In 2008, Friendly Taxi Service changed its fleet for the more recognizable yellow paint and its name and operating model. The business has grown from limited employees in the town of Lancaster to independent contractors serving the entire county. Friendly has become a private transport company.
A list of taxi companies licensed to operate in Lancaster County was not immediately available from the PUC. Other county transportation service options include Unique Cab, Lancaster Express Taxi, Lancaster City Cabs, Red Rose Transit Authority as well as Uber and Lyft and several Amish taxi services.
As for Wilkerson, he said he understood running a business and making tough decisions – he once owned The Camera Shop in downtown Lancaster. He sold it because of his vision loss due to degenerative retinal disease.
However, the loss prevented him from moving around town with his guide dog. And, he says, it’s hard to replace the close relationship he had with the Yellow Cab drivers.
“I think I can now use the Uber app,” he said. “There was a time when it was not very user-friendly (for the visually impaired.)”