One hundred years ago, just a few decades after the first motorized vehicles were produced in Canada, a small grocery store in downtown Kingston became Kingston’s first taxi company.
Although Amey’s Taxi started with a single car, today the company, now known as Amey’s Greenwood Taxi Ltd., is responsible for 156 of the 212 taxis operating in the city of Kingston.
After a full century of operation marked by wars, pandemics, and unprecedented rates of technological change, Amey’s is preparing to mark the milestone with a grand celebration at the Portuguese Cultural Center on August 23 from 11 am to 3 pm.
The company was founded in 1922 by Bill Amey, a local grocery store owner, who frequently delivered groceries to people’s homes in his car. After being repeatedly asked to drop off customers between deliveries, Amey got the idea to start his own taxi company.
“People were like, ‘Hey, Bill! Why don’t you take me to the street since you go there too? and Bill, being an entrepreneur, thought, ‘I’m going to start my own taxi company, and when I’m driving the grocery store, I’m also going to pick people and drive them,’” Mark Greenwood, current owner of Amey. he said in an interview with the Whig-Standard.
During the first decades, the business remained in the hands of the Amey family. However, after World War II, the eldest son, Steven Amey, who had succeeded his father, thought that as more and more people owned their own vehicles, taxi companies would become redundant and he began to find a new buyer.
You need look no further than your own drivers to find two willing and eager buyers.
Francis and Glenn Greenwood were two brothers whose farming responsibilities on Wolfe Island meant that they had not been drafted as soldiers in World War II. During the war, the two brothers worked as taxi drivers in their spare time.
“In 1946, Steve (Amey) approached Francis and Glenn and asked, ‘Do you want to buy Amey’s?’ — so they ended up buying Amey’s and built it up from there. They bought different stalls and taxis and all that kind of stuff,” explained Mark Greenwood.
In the years that followed, the Greenwood brothers bought out their competitors and expanded the business, acquiring Premier Taxi, Checker Taxi, and Yellow, Royal, and Diamond taxi companies.
It was during this era that the company adopted the infamous orange cockpit trim.
“Dad walked into a (trade) show in Washington, DC, and (the orange signs) were right out front, and he said, ‘That’s a great sign,’ so that’s what they started doing,” Greenwood explained.
In addition to being a period of expansion, it was also one of great technological innovation. Radio technology, automotive technology, and telephone technology were all advancing to become more compact and mobile.
Amey’s Taxi was an early adopter of two-way radio systems, even beating the Kingston Police for being the first organization to implement them in cars.
The advancement of radio technology revolutionized the way taxis got around the city, speeding up the process for drivers and passengers.
“Before that, all over town, they had phones, and if you were in Portsmouth Village, there was a telephone pole and cabs would line up by the phone, and then the phone would ring and the first cab driver would pick up the phone and go get it. trip. So before they got the two-way radios, there was a lot of organization, because then they had to zone the city and learn how to dispatch and all that kind of stuff. Now it is mainly managed by computer,” explained Greenwood.
While the company saw many high points under Glenn and Francis Greenwood, Mark said things weren’t looking good when he bought Amey’s in 1997.
“When I bought it, no one had driven it for many, many years. I hate to say it, but it was terrible service. We were the smallest (taxi) company in town and we were losing like $10,000 a year,” he said.
After significant investment in a new office building, the opening of a service garage and investment in new hybrid vehicles, Greenwood said he has turned the business around, an achievement made even more significant with the introduction of transportation companies like Uber. and Lyft.
“Uber has definitely affected us. I mean we’ve probably lost about 20 percent of our business (to them),” she said. “But we have been modernizing, and to a large extent we were already quite modern. But we’re remaking our systems to be more “app-y” and allow Apple Pay. But we offer all the services that they don’t offer. You know our vehicles are checked every six months, you can talk to a person in the office, there are lost and found.”
Adapting to the realities of climate change has also been a priority for Amey, a particularly important effort given that motorized vehicles are heavy polluters.
The company purchased its first hybrid taxi in 2007, and by 2015, more than 60% of the fleet consisted of hybrid vehicles.
“We have been very pro in the environment. We were the first to sign up for Bullfrog Power, where all the power supposedly comes from clean windmills. We’ve also put a lot of hybrid vehicles on the road, and we’ve gone completely paperless here in the office,” he said.
While it’s been a tough few years for the taxi industry, and for everyone, Greenwood said he’s proud to see Amey’s pass such an important milestone.
“I am very excited for the 100 years. I think it’s a great milestone that we’ve come this far. And I am happy that my family, my dad, my uncles and I, have been able to keep Amey relevant to the city and keep our customers loyal for all these years to stay relevant,” he said.