ALPENA — Kevin Schmidt is on the road anytime between 9 a.m. and midnight, Monday through Saturday.
The owner and only driver at American Taxi Cab in Alpena, Schmidt can’t help avoiding public places amid the coronavirus pandemic.
A lot of people he transports have no vehicle to get them to the grocery store or a doctor’s appointment, he said, and it’s both his job and pleasure to help those in need of a lift.
“I give free rides at times,” Schmidt said. “People don’t have much money or no money. I’ve had some customers in my van that, after they call me for the ride, then they explain, ‘I only got $4, can you help me out?’ And I say, ‘Sure. Get in. I’ll give you a ride for $4.’”
Schmidt has worked to build a reputable name for himself as a cabbie since July 2019, but he’s been on the move for a good portion of his life.
He spent about 17 years as a truck driver, and, until recently, was out west, driving longer-distance, 52-passenger buses for Coach USA.
In April 2018, while living in Wyoming, he got into a motorcycle crash that badly damaged his leg, leading the Alpena native to move back home because he had no way to support himself.
Schmidt took some of the settlement money he got from his injury to buy the very van he uses today to pick up customers.
“I knew Alpena needed another cab service, because the one that’s here just wasn’t enough,” he said. “I got talking to some people to get some input, and thought, ‘All right, how hard can it be to run a cab?’ And it’s pretty easy. There’s nothing to it.”
Schmidt said he’s grateful to have a strong customer base and estimates he has roughly 30 regulars who request rides from him. He said some customers call him three to four times a week.
Calls have been fewer since Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in March ordered Michiganders to stay home unless absolutely necessary to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, but Schmidt said he makes sure to sanitize his vehicle and has hand sanitizer readily available for himself and passengers.
Wesley Jones, one of Schmidt’s regulars, said American Taxi Cab has been very reliable. Jones has utilized the cab service since his own vehicle broke down.
“I get to my doctor’s appointments on time and get them out of the way,” Jones said. “If I even need groceries, I call him to help.”
In the future, Schmidt said, he hopes to expand his business, adding one or two more vehicles if work continues steadily.
He has no plans to stop driving anytime soon.
“I can’t retire, because I don’t want to,” he said. “I enjoy what I do and helping the community.”
Meakalia Previch-Liu can be reached at 989-358-5680 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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