A Columbia, Missouri, taxi company that is an institution in the city will close up shop on Thursday after a perfect storm of economy challenges made owners Terry and Angie Nickerson decide that running the business is just not worth it anymore.
It’s not just soaring gas prices. It’s not just labor shortages. It’s not just the inability to find parts. It’s not just high insurance rates. It’s not just competition. It’s not just burnout.
“It’s all of it combined together,” Angie, who’s referred to as “boss lady” at the company, told FOX Business. “It’s just not feasible the way it once was.”
The Nickersons started their business, Taxi Terry’s, 13 years ago by trading in Terry’s Ford F150 pickup for two minivans. Eventually, they built their fleet up to 24 vehicles that shuttled around residents and visitors alike in the town that is home to the University of Missouri. Taxi Terry’s also served a critical need in the community by becoming the only 24-hour taxi service that offered wheelchair vans for people who needed that accessibility.
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Like many taxi companies, Taxi Terry’s took a hit when ride-share giants Uber and Lyft entered the market a handful of years ago. The operation’s driver count dropped to around 15 at that time.
Then the pandemic hit, and they lost more. It also became increasingly difficult to hire folks as larger companies offered incentives that the small business couldn’t match. “You can go to McDonald’s and make $15 an hour and get benefits,” Angie says. “We can’t do that.”
“We talk to a lot of business people when we’re out at lunch and stuff like that, and everybody says the same thing,” she said. “They can’t find employees.”
As Taxi Terry’s staff dwindled, so did the availability of parts. “We had one car that sat at the mechanic for like two months because they were waiting on some parts,” Angie said. “You can’t run to [taxi] business when your cars are at the shop. So that’s a big deal.”
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Gas prices were at record highs when the Nickersons ultimately made the decision a few months ago to close the family business, but that was not the sole reason behind them closing up shop. Angie noted that they could have just raised their fares like they did the last time gas prices spiked. Besides, she says, it’s not just gas prices that are up, “it’s everything.”
But it was a conversation with a “man, another provider” who was part of the “Great Resignation” that convinced Terry it was time to pack it in, instead.
The friend said they “had quit their job and [were] doing something different because family was more important,” Angie recalled. “I needed to hear that,” she said of Terry.
After that, the Nickersons made arrangements for how they will make a living after they close, and gave their remaining employees a heads-up so that they could find new jobs.
The couple is holding a Taxi Terry’s goodbye celebration Thursday evening at another Columbia institution to mark the end of an era and welcome a new one after 26 years of marriage.
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In a Facebook post inviting members of the community to come to the party, Angie wrote, “Cannot wait to see what our future holds… grandkids for sure! How great is that?!”