American Classic Checker Taxi
Chris Hagan, owner
LONG BEACH — Need a lift on the Long Beach Peninsula? A new 24-hour taxi service has you covered.
In February, American Classic Checker Taxi officially opened their car doors to Peninsula customers seeking a ride.
“We’re here to give the community the transportation they deserve,” said owner Chris Hagan.
One car is currently operating on the Peninsula offering 24-hour service with drivers Kevin Cline and Amanda Vallette. More drivers and cars could be added in the coming weeks depending on demand. The introductory fair rate is "$2.50 to get in the car then $2.50 per mile afterward," Hagan said.
A different kind of delivery
Hagan previously worked dispatch for Pizza Hut and Dominoes delivery before purchasing the Wenatchee-based AC Checker Taxi Service about nine months ago.
“I came from another delivery and customer service industry, and I brought the philosophy I learned over 25 years in the pizza industry doing delivery and dispatch to AC Checker. It’s all about the customer and that’s the way we’re based — fast, friendly and reliable,” Hagan said.
Hagan, who served in the Navy, has since been on a mission to expand services to under-served rural areas in Washington.
“As a result I’ve doubled my cars in nine months. This is my second large expansion,” he said.
The business originally started in Wenatchee with one car and one guy. Hagan purchased the business in May 2019.
“When I bought the company, it was five cars covering Chelan and East Wenatchee. We now run Wenatchee, Chelan, Brewster-Pateros, Quincy, Soap Lake, the Gorge and now Chinook, Long Beach, Ilwaco and Ocean Park,” he said.
“And we will go anywhere in the state. It can cost you thousands getting DUI. But a taxi might cost you $5 to $8 to get home.”
Hagan currently has 10 cars in the fleet total and dispatchers dispersed across the U.S. from Pennsylvania to Washington to coordinate calls 24-hours-a-day and seven days a week.
Hagan saw an ideal opportunity in Long Beach, where ride shares like Uber and Lyft failed to flourish.
“We looked at the demographics and the market and how could we not?” Hagan said.
“It’s a big tourist area and we specialize as a rural taxi, which is a big advantage for us here. The city taxi can go in bulk and their pricing is different. As a rural taxi, instead of your $5 run next door, it’s usually a $40 run to the next city.”
A taxi could help relieve road congestion and be a safer way to travel, Hagan said.
“There’s a lot of people on the road during the summer time in a tourist area. With a professional driver, not only are you more safe, the people on the road are too. As for the tourists, my drivers know where to go.”
The name American Classic Checker Taxi is homage to U.S. manufacturing and military.
“We only use American-made cars and are veteran based. I love my country and served for my country. And now I’m out here to serve the community,” Hagan said.
Hagan has also been able to lure drivers from popular ride share programs to join his expanding fleet.
“I pay better and maintain my cars better than Uber,” Hagan said, declining to reveal details about employment pay.
“All my cars are fully insured and licensed. All my drivers are background checked. We go through a lot to keep our upstanding name and it works.”
Hagan is eventually planning to add more cars and drivers to the fleet in Long Beach but hasn’t determined a timeline, instead choosing to wait and gauge demand as it emerges.
“I will have to watch the trends,” he said. Hagan currently operates three cars in the Chelan market (population 3,900), which he considers a comparable to the Peninsula.
“And I’m guessing it’s probably what’s going to get run here,” he said.
The initial response from the Peninsula has been strong.
“I’ve been advertising here for eight days and had more than 10,000 hits (on Facebook). It’s been one of the biggest hits we’ve ever had. The community response is phenomenal,” he said.
“The base of any transportation industry is going to be the locals. They’re the ones who are going to ride, give you feedback and put the word out. It’s the initial response from the community whether we succeed or fail,” he said.
Eventually Hagan plans to continue to expanding his taxi fleet across Washington.
“My expectation is to be as far as Elma by the end of summer and be in Ocean Shores this time next year,” he said.