Jack Milam is celebrating the fifth anniversary of his taxi cab business known as Jack's Hack's Taxi and has become one of the largest taxi cab services in Lehigh Acres.
There are 11 people associated with Milam, including his wife, Millie, who drive cabs in and around Lehigh and anywhere else one has to go.
"It was five years go and I was with a friend at the Homestead Bar and he mentioned to me that Lehigh didn't' have a viable taxi service and his wife agreed," Milam said.
Jack’s Hack’s Taxi and Jack Milam, its owner.
Laughing, Milam said that was when it all started "with a dollar and a dream" and he said he had to borrow the dollar.
"I was retired and bored like many people who retired a little too young," said Milan who will be 69 in July.
Why the name Jack's Hack's, Malian was asked.
"Well if you're in New York City, that is how you summon a taxi. You stand almost on the street and scream 'Hack!" with an arm up in the air waving that means you want taxi service.
But you don't have to scream "Hack" here in Lehigh Acres because Milam and his associates are everywhere in Lehigh 24/7 and have a continuing group of people who call his dispatchers whenever they need a ride.
Funny thing though. There is no central dispatcher's office. When you call 239-362-8872, you're going to get a dispatcher, but it will be on Milam's cell phone. On weekends he carries his cell phone because he is on duty at night.
"But I pass the cell phone onto one of the two dispatchers and they know where everyone is and they can get a cab out to you pretty fast. When the other dispatcher comes on, he gets the cell phone," Milam said. He lives on Alabama Rd. Extended but his associates, who are their own independent contractors, live all over Lehigh and use their own vehicles.
But one thing about Milam that he likes everyone to know is that he has no meter running in any of the taxi cabs serving Lehigh Acres.
"And the rates are not expensive like some others are. We punch our speed odometers to zero when we pick someone up and only charge for the number of miles which is much cheaper than those who charge fees and mileage.
Milan loves his business and is on a first name basis with most of the passengers who call to get a ride. Those who know him will tell you that he has a sense of humor too and that he loves to talk to people. Many say he is a real joker and likes to tease others.
But Jack, as he likes to be called, said five years ago her bought a van and started what he called a grass roots campaign and slowly, very slowly, without spending anything on advertising, started his business.
He left pink calling business cards everywhere in town, including the offices of the Greater Lehigh Acres Chamber of Commerce.
"For five years I toughed it out, seven days a week, 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.," he said.
But then the calls started coming in overnight and he laughed and said working 24/7 with just catnaps wasn't doing it, so he decided it was time to hire a person then some others to help with the driving.
"Word of mouth spread around the community and presto, there were customers to serve and Jack and his wife, Millie, were happy with what they had created.
He credits his wife for her devotion to him and his work.
"She is a wonderful woman that I love so much. She looks out over me and works the taxi service, too," he said.
"It's all about giving, we are more than a taxi service we are community service.
"Our cab rides start at $2 for the first mile and then $1.50 per mile after that. There is no per minute charges. Plus now, we have 'Sally' on the road.
"She's our wheelchair accessible van. First day out and people called to book it. Yes, word of mouth has been bringing calls to us," he said.
But serving all the drivers by a cell phone may be on its way out due to heavy business demands, Jack said.
"It's just getting too busy to coordinate the drivers by phone. They all have their own customer base, which I encourage, but will get calls from dispatch as well.
"And we are a bilingual service. Our dispatch operators speak Spanish and English. That's a must for LA, the name he uses for Lehigh Acres.
"You know, there is a LA on the West Coast in California and we have a LA on the East Coast in Lehigh," he laughed.
"Let's go back and talk about the community service statement.
"How does a cab company serve the community besides offering inexpensive rides? We deal with an enormous senior citizen clientele, people who can't or don't drive anymore. That doesn't mean they don't want to get out, but they are limited in their finances. So we put together little packages, like our monthly 'Sunday Ladies Monthly Beach Party.'
"We found several women who, not knowing each other, all said they would like to go to the beach. So we put them together and gave them a discount. Tada! Customer service," he said.
Jack also said he has also aligned with charitable agencies to provide some free transports as well.
"That's community service. As long as we are on the road, we will be more than just a taxi service. You ask any of our regular customers and they will tell you that we do our best to accommodate them when they need us.
"That's why our motto is 'thank you for your trust.' It's not easily earned and even harder to keep it once you have it," he said.
Presbyterian Homes and Heron Pond Apartments, Jack said, are two of the busiest places with senior citizens who live at both locations.
He will even go and pick up your groceries and charge you a one-way fee.
"It works like this. The person, mostly a senior, can make up a grocery list and call the store and they will retrieve the items the customer wants and then they call me and I go pick it up and take it to the customer just a few bucks usually one way," he said.
"I'll even pick up a pizza for them or anything else," he said laughing.
Jack's personality is warm and funny. And he will tell you spiritually, that he is a believer, and treats everyone right.
"And it is the same with my associates. Our word is our trust and we won't let anyone down. They also are believers."
"Business has been good, thanks to the many customers that have come to trust us because we won't overcharge them with expensive fees.
"It's a wonderful experience," he said. As business continues, Jack says he hopes to expand the 11 associates to more, so taxi cabs are in every area of Lehigh, so they can get to a customer within 15 minutes, no matter where they live.