More Than a Ride

Is­land Taxi is in­te­gral part of San-Cap com­mu­nity

RSWLiving - - Contents - BY BAR­BARA LIN­STROM Bar­bara Lin­strom has been writ­ing for Times of the Is­lands since its pre­mier is­sue in 1996. Hav­ing first vis­ited Sani­bel in 1976, she en­joys cov­er­ing the evo­lu­tion of the is­lands' com­mu­ni­ties.

No won­der they’re con­sid­er­ing writ­ing a book called Taxi Tales— about the quirky is­land char­ac­ters and ad­ven­tures they’ve en­coun­tered. Such as the time Tom Jones, the In­di­ana golfer turned pres­i­dent/coowner of Is­land Taxi, res­cued the di­rec­tor of the Rauschen­berg Foun­da­tion who was vis­it­ing from Man­hat­tan.

“She’d called us be­cause she wanted her bike put in the car to get past an 8-foot al­li­ga­tor in the mid­dle of the road back to her rental in The Sanc­tu­ary,” says Jones. How­ever, the bi­cy­cle didn’t fit in the car. “I said, can you drive? And, I rode her bike past the al­li­ga­tor while she drove my ve­hi­cle past it,” he adds. It just wasn’t her day; once they past the ga­tor, she re­al­ized she didn’t have any money on her. “I said that’s OK. I don’t know what I would charge you. You drove our car 500 yards,” he re­calls, with a chuckle.

Is­land Taxi, cen­trally lo­cated to ser­vice Cap­tiva and Sani­bel from Rab­bit Road, across from J.N. “Ding” Dar­ling Na­tional Wildlife Refuge, was cre­ated by Jones and Made­line Fischer to pro­vide just that kind of per­sonal care and con­cern for all pas­sen­gers.

When Hur­ri­cane Irma was threat­en­ing a 6-foot storm surge in 2017, they not only drove their fleet of 15-pas­sen­ger vans, Lin­coln Town Cars and a limo to Southwest Florida In­ter­na­tional Air­port, they also drove the ve­hi­cles of a num­ber of snow­birds who weren’t yet down. “It was be­fore a lot of our reg­u­lar sea­sonal cus­tomers were on the is­land, so we helped them out. That’s what we’re all about—help­ing out the com­mu­nity,” ex­plains Jones.

Be­yond hav­ing reg­u­lar sea­sonal and an­nual clients, in­clud­ing Fort My­ers-based Shell Point res­i­dents who at­tend church on Sani­bel, they also help out F.I.S.H. when vol­un­teers aren’t avail­able to take is­land res­i­dents to med­i­cal ap­point­ments, the gro­cery store or for hair­cuts. They give re­duced rates to Clinic for the Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion of Wildlife in­terns, and pro­vide shut­tle ser­vice for Taste of the Is­lands and the Sani­bel-Cap­tiva Con­ser­va­tion Foun­da­tion’s an­nual fundraiser.

Be­yond that, they’re the real deal. They ex­ude the old is­land charm—that laid-back, un­pre­ten­tious and friendly way of early Sani­bel and Cap­tiva.

“Ev­ery­one is a VIP to us,” says Fischer, who is known for her round-the-clock hours as dis­patcher, and also is co-owner/part­ner along with Ken Gill and Karen DeWitt. “Our fa­vorite thing is help­ing peo­ple. That’s why our motto is ‘More Than a Ride.’ If you let us know ahead of time, we won’t charge you for your first 15 min­utes of shop­ping at the gro­cery store on your ride from the air­port. Af­ter that, it’s $10 for the next 15 min­utes.”

Pet-friendly and fam­ily-friendly, their driv­ers will come with booster seats or car seats, and with com­pli­men­tary bot­tled wa­ter from Bai­ley’s Gen­eral Store.

“We’re also well known for our cus­tom­ized ser­vice for wed­dings. Start­ing from air­port pick­ups, we’ll trans­port the wed­ding party and guests from the re­hearsal din­ner, to the wed­ding cer­e­mony, to the re­cep­tion site—all ar­ranged ahead of time,” says Fischer. She em­pha­sizes her love of ad­vance plan­ning: “Call or go to is­land­taxi.com and fill out the form.”

Al Hanser, chair­man of The Sani­bel Cap­tiva Trust Com­pany, has been on the is­lands for about 25 years. He’s known for his pas­sion­ate de­vo­tion to com­mu­nity causes, in­clud­ing pop­ping out of a cake at Is­land Nights at Ham­mond Sta­dium in Fort My­ers a cou­ple of years ago. “I’ve been call­ing Made­line for 20 years—she’s a main­stay,” says Hanser.

“She knows my voice. I know her voice. I use them a lot—we use them for clients and I use them for fam­ily and friends. They’re re­ally se­lec­tive who they hire as driv­ers—all their driv­ers are re­ally nice like them and very knowl­edge­able about the is­lands,” he adds.

In 2016, Fischer—who al­ready had logged 13 years as a dis­patcher on the is­land—con­vinced then-limo driver Jones to cre­ate Is­land Taxi. The plan was to de­liver the kind of cus­tomer ser­vice she thought was lack­ing on the is­land.

“It’s great to see how well their com­pany is do­ing. I en­cour­aged them to break away and they’ve re­ally made it work,” says Hanser. “And they’ve sup­ported a num­ber of char­i­ties around town along the way—which, as a big com­mu­nity sup­porter, I re­ally ap­pre­ci­ate when oth­ers also make the ef­fort. They’ve be­come an in­te­gral part of the com­mu­nity.”

Is­land Taxi co-own­ers Made­line Fischer and Tom Jones note that one of the many things their com­pany is known for is “cus­tom­ized ser­vice for wed­dings.”

Is­land Taxi cov­ers all trans­porta­tion needs with its fleet of pas­sen­ger vans, sedans and limo.

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