An independent player in the movement of people and parcels around St. Thomas and environs since 1944, taxis branded as Cox Cabs picked up their last fare early this year.
A victim of a market re-brand or idled by bankruptcy?
The former, insists owner Jamie Donnelly, who purchased Cox Cabs from the late Terry Banghart in 2011. Banghart took part ownership of the company in 1993 and sole ownership in 2003. He began as a driver with the firm in 1973.
“We started re-branding about three months ago and we have completed it now,” Donnelly told City Scope recently.
His cabs will roam the roads under the banner Your Taxi.
However Cox Cabs filed for bankruptcy on Jan. 6 of this year and the first meeting of creditors was scheduled for Jan. 26 at the offices of Goldhar & Associates, trustee in bankruptcy, at their London office.
Any talk of bankruptcy, however, is a no-go for Donnelly.
“I don’t think we want to talk about that just yet, Ian. There will be a time and I will be happy to discuss it with you at that time. Your Taxi is all the same drivers, staff. It’s exactly what St. Thomas has come to expect from its cab fleet.”
According to the Cox Transportation Ltd. bankruptcy notice obtained by City Scope, $905,945 is owing to dozens of unsecured and prefered creditors including drivers, many well-known city businesses and secured creditors like Canada Revenue agency, owed $232,432.
The firms listed are a who’s who in St. Thomas: Dowler Karn, McGregor Auto Parts, Pioneer Energy, Waites Printing and Libro Financial to scratch the surface.
But the cabs will continue to roll, assures Donnelly.
“The licences from the city have all been paid for, no problem there. The city is not overly fussy, I don’t think, over what name is on them. As long as it’s properly looked after. We just bought our 2017 licences with the Your Taxi name on them.”
Donnelly has a unique take on the re-branding.
” Whenever you pull up some place, people always say, ‘Is this my taxi?’ Well now we can say, Yes this is Your Taxi. It’s having a little bit of fun with the marketing side. It’s a bit of an update and an upgrade.
“The cars are now brighter with a little more decal on them. We are the same service as far as the drivers and what everbody has come to expect. Of course, there are always new things in the works as far as continuous improvement. We’re always looking for ways to make things better. Nothing radical that the customers are going to notice just yet. We do have a few things in the works with upgrades and improvements.”
Donnelly says he has 20 cars in service with 25 drivers, including part-timers. And rough roads and a myriad of railway crossings take their toll on his vehicles.
“Maintenance is a huge issue for us. When our cars go up and down the road, you seldom will hear them rattle because we’ve got an in-house mechanic. Every car is in the shop regularly. We don’t let them get to the point where they’re rattling and loose. It’s one of the reasons some people complain the rates in St. Thomas are a little bit high. One of the reasons is the amount of maintenance and the other part is we have to try and make the business fly with the market we have.”
No doubt seeing those cabs stickered with a new identity will irk business owners holding the bill, but Donnelly stresses things will work out.
“As far as small businesses go, we’re fairly robust and we’re going to keep on rockin’. We’ve gone back to propane vehicles for the most part which has been a big help economically and environmentally. We’re targetting to get to 90 per cent propane within the next two years. We’re probably at 50 per cent now.
“We’re doing our best, we’ve got a really good team here. Things have been a little tough lately, but the team has stepped up and we’re definitely going to make things work.”
GIT ‘ER DONE
To know homeless advocate Jason McComb is back in town you need look no further than the downtown core. With the assistance of Downtown Development chairman Earl Taylor, Jason is back on the street picking up what others have discarded in the absence over the winter of garbage receptacles.
We’ll let Jason set the scene.
“Pictured here is me today (Monday) with two-thirds of today’s litter I picked up from St Catherine Street to First Avenue both (sides). The bins were over flowing into the wagon after being “compacted”/pushed down many times.”
While some members of city council may be less than overjoyed with Jason’s return to the one-man clean-up patrol, he writes members of the public were enthusiastic.
“The reception from the passers-by (pedestrian and vehicular traffic) was honestly astounding! Two days in a row I was stopped and asked ‘can I give you a hug?’, followed by thanking me to come back and do clean the litter, cars honked and waved, some rolled down the window to say ‘good job’, ‘thank you’, gave thumbs up and more! There were even two individuals that asked if they could help me!”
So what is the motive behind his rubbish round-up?
“I do want to make clear that I did not come home to be a thorn in the side of Coun. Joan Rymal or any others at city hall however, I am none too shy about being just that if that’s what it takes for home to be a clean place and somewhere to be proud of.
“Yesterday’s garbage collected from city hall to the west-end Tim Hortons (including out of the flower boxes) totalled three very heavy large bags of garbage packed to the point one of them literally burst at the seams.”
While it is an over-simplification to blame the city for removing the garbage bins, Jason forwards a reminder to all of us.
“I just hope this will be a gentle reminder to the public that just because city hall used an exceptionally high amount of their tax dollars to purchase less than quality garbage receptacles that for whatever reason they are not utilizing, littering is still unjustified.
The downtown garbage doesn’t migrate to warmer climes
Trash-talking councillor bags Downtown Development Board
No bins mean more garbage on Talbot Street, surprised?
THE READER’S WRITE
We’ve documented several times in this corner, the city’s negotiations with London developer Shmuel Farhi to purchase a vacant plot of land on the south side of Talbot St., between William and Queen streets, and extending to Centre Street. The site is being considered for development of a community hub to house the Ontario Works department and the Central Community Health Centre, both currently occupying office space along the north side of Talbot Street.
That yet-to-be-inked deal prompted the following email from reader Dave Mathers.
“I read of the city’s desire to construct a new building at the west end to consolidate several services,” he writes. “I feel it would make more sense to purchase the current buildings or extend their leases. The reason? Moving out would create more unwanted vacant spaces downtown. If city hall really believes in the revitalization of the core then this could be a good place to start.”
If the negotiations continue at this pace – bogged down by environmental concerns – extending the leases may be the only viable option.
POINT TO PONDER
Reader Michelle frequents the Timken Centre on a regular basis and is puzzled by the city’s lack of promotional fortitude when it comes to tourism. We’ll let her explain.
“Inside the main entrance, to your immediate right, is a display stand. It contains many wonderful and colourful brochures and pamphlets enticing people to … anywhere but St Thomas,” she writes.
“Niagara Falls! Hamilton! US destinations! I find this extraordinary! Large hockey tournaments are held in our city, bringing in out-of-towners. I’m sure they would have time before or after the games to check out some local sights and activities.
“But there is nothing in that COMMUNITY arena, nothing on this display unit, about the many things they could be doing right here! I have seen people walk out with a Marineland brochure tucked under their arm. Wow – just wow. Has anyone else ever commented on this? Or asked a city tourism person about this?? Just wondering …”
So are we Michelle and we will approach the powers-to-be on the logic behind behind this missed marketing opportunity.
ONE TO WATCH
A report to council from city manager Wendell Graves on what is being described as a design hiccup at the new home of the St. Thomas Police Service. As revealed at Monday’s meeting of city council, the cell doors apparently are not in compliance.
No specifics on when this analysis will be brought forward for council’s benefit.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“It’s a tough business, there’s no question. It always has been. And it’s a lot like farming, it’s feast or famine. You can’t keep up when times are good and when times are slow, it’s tough to turn a dollar.”
Jamie Donnelly – owner of Your Taxi, formerlly Cox Cabs – on the state of the taxi business in St. Thomas and elsewhere.