Paul Cox leaned back on his office couch and sipped some coffee, preparing for what is usually one of his busier nights as the owner of a one-man, one Lincoln Town Car taxi company. Some might think it an odd gig, but he’s licensed, legit and his ledger sheet shows he’s in the black.
How can ACE Taxi Co. afford to compete?
“We cut out the middle man,” Cox said.
Cox talked about how he handles the task from his diminutive office in the Johnson City Office Building on Buffalo Street. A copy of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” “MacBeth” and “King Lear” sat on the table.
“The meat of my business is Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights,” said Cox, who became owner of Johnson City’s third taxi company in September. “That’s probably 80 percent of my income. I have the luxury of picking up the phone when I choose. I probably don’t do more than 15-20 hours a week, but the business is growing every day.”
Cox decided to start the company to give customers an option on fares. And one thing you may notice when you hop in — no meters.
“It’s mostly late-night bar crowds,” he said. “It’s definitely a different type of taxi company, but it’s great for me. I experience a lot of different walks of life. It goes from one extreme to the other. I could pick up a crack whore on one run and a group going to a wedding at the Carnegie Hotel on the next.”
Cox’s 1994 Lincoln Town Car is garnished on each door with a black ace of spades. You might also call him a jack of all trades.
He also does photography on the side. And when the weather is nice, he serves as a tour guide on the Pigeon River near the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. He said he would like to continue doing the tours where he takes his “pop-up camper and stays for the summer.” But if the taxi business picks up, it could make him focus his full attention on shuffling people around on four wheels.
“There might come a time when I need to hire someone, but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it,” he said. “Many of my regulars won’t call anybody else, and word is getting around.”
Cox said he does some outsourcing with Trinity Taxi, which opened its doors in mid-July. On his slow days, customers calling his phone number may be referred to Trinity. And Trinity may refer customers to Ace when they do not have a cab available.
The third taxi company in town is WW Cab Co., for whom Cox used to drive.
He said he wants to make his rates as easy to understand as possible and that the company does not complicate matters. He uses no zone pricing and no meters. Rates are calculated from the pick-up location using a Garmin GPS on the “shortest distance” setting to ensure you are quoted the lowest price possible, he said.
ACE operates without a dispatcher, which is typically a key employee in the industry. When you call (or text) ACE Taxi, however, your call goes straight to the driver.
Prices begin at a $5.50 minimum and steadily rise by 50 cents after the first 3 miles. When the distance hits 9 miles, $1 is added to the minimum for each mile traveled. The rate increases by alternating rates of 50 cents and $1, depending on miles traveled up to 400 miles when the price tacked on to the minimum is $5.50 per mile.
“When I look at my books it’s obvious,” he said. “Every week is better than the last.”
ACE is headquartered in Johnson City at 802 Buffalo St., Suite 7-B.
Customers can call or text ACE Taxi at 262-9617.
NOTE: Trips to Virginia, North Carolina and Kentucky may incur additional charges.