By David Stenklyft, Wausau Pilot and Review
When Aaron Schloemer founded Northwoods Cab four years ago, little did he know that two national competitors, namely Uber and Lyft, would be headed to town.
Schloemer, who ran the business with his wife for a year in Tomahawk before moving to Wausau’s larger market, said that despite the challenge the competition has been healthy for his company.
“We just have to stay ahead and bring our best every day,” Schloemer said. “I’m actually happy they’re here. The more choices people in Wausau have to get a lift, the better. I’d rather visitors and people who need to use a cab can get one.”
In fact, Schloemer said, the Uber/Lyft competition hasn’t affected his bottom line at all.
“There are a lot of people who need to get around in Wausau,” he said. “The community needs to be supported.”
Schloemer said one of the best things about his job is the riders he and his drivers meet along the way. One rider might be headed to work; others are headed home from a night on the town. Customers range from young people to the very elderly, with local riders and tourists alike.
“It’s a neat opportunity to meet people from Europe or Africa and get to know them a little,” he said. I think the drivers like that, too. It’s not a normal desk or factory job. There’s lots of variety.”
Some people, too, might be surprised at the number of riders being dropped off at area schools and colleges. Part of that is due to a shift in attitudes by younger people. Once, young people thought of having a vehicle as a ticket to freedom. But many in today’s Millennial generation just don’t want the expense, upkeep, insurance.
They’d rather call a cab.
“I think if there were more decent paying jobs, the younger passengers might buy their own car,” he said. “But bartenders, office workers, who we drive a lot for, just can’t swing it.”
Northwoods sends out about 15 vehicles Monday through Friday during daytime hours and 12 at night. More cabs are needed during weekdays for rides to work, school and doctor appointments. On weekends, the Northwoods fleet is about half the size of weekdays.
In the beginning, Schloemer said he was hoping to get five or six calls for rides each day. The phone rang three times right after he opened at 6 a.m. on his first day of doing business in Wausau.
That day, Northwoods Cab had 26 calls for rides, shattering his expectations.
Currently, the company has 30 drivers in what Schloemer describes as a definite family atmosphere.
Now, Schloemer has an eye toward investing in more cabs — and expanding into the towing business.
“The last big snowstorm we had, we had to shut down the business for about six hours, every car was stuck,” Schloemer said.
Despite the competition from Uber and Lyft, Schloemer said he only sees continued success in the cab business.
“We are extremely happy in Wausau, and we hope to grow along with the city,” he said.
Top photo: Aaron Schloemer, Northwoods Cab. Credit: David Stenklyft