COEUR d'ALENE - Scott Dimberg, a native of Chicago and a Post Falls transplant, started his taxi business at the peak of the recession. He has had almost nothing but success.
When he started more than two years ago, it was just him and one car. Naturally, he called the business Scott's Taxi.
"I started by giving rides to people after they finished at bars," he said. "I would just ride along Sherman Avenue with my light on."
He was working mostly on Friday and Saturday. About nine months ago, Scott's Taxi went to a schedule of 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Today, he has nearly a dozen vehicles, with six of them operating all the time. He plans to add more cars this summer.
"Now our daytime business is as big as our bar business," Dimberg said.
Including himself, the Post Falls-based business employs eight people.
Dimberg, 44, is a single father of two daughters, ages 6 and 9. He has been in North Idaho about eight years, and has been raising the girls by himself for about three years.
Establishing the taxi business provided him with the schedule flexibility he needed as a single father.
Scott's Taxi's core coverage area is Post Falls, Hayden and Coeur d'Alene.
But if somebody needs a ride to Seattle, they'll get it, he said. His drivers make regular trips to Spokane and Kellogg.
His employees were all former customers.
Dimberg said that as customers he had built a relationship with them. When they fell on misfortune, he decided to throw them a lifeline.
"Most of them were out of work or got fired from their job, and I didn't think that was right," he said.
He said his drivers are not just giving rides to people too drunk to drive.
"You name it," he said. "We meet a lot of people, from all different places and all walks of life."
He offers customers either a meter rate or flat rate. The flat rate, a price quote for the ride from point A to B, is negotiable and more popular with customers, he said.
From his experience living in big cities like Chicago and Las Vegas, he spotted the potential for more taxi service in North Idaho. He said people here weren't all familiar with hailing cab.
That has changed. When the taxi light is on, people flag him down now, he said.
He said he "kind of fell into" the taxi business.
He was a care salesman at a Post Falls dealership when he first moved to North Idaho.
Prior to that, he was self-employed. He was a general contractor in Chicago, he said.
It hasn't all been smooth taxiing since his time at the car dealership.
He has been at odds with the city of Coeur d'Alene for limits placed on taxis on downtown streets including Sherman.
City ordinance specifies where taxis can pick up customers. They have to use a designated "taxi depot," he said.
"The taxi drivers help remove the people on the streets, and help reduce other problems on the streets," he said. He said taxis help cut down on DUIs.
"The taxis and police should be working together to get people off the street after the bars close," he said.
Dimberg said his formula for business success and growth during the economic downturn has been simple.
"We show up when called," he said. "When we say we'll be there in five minutes, we're there in five minutes."
Being dependable has helped grow a loyal customer base, he said. He can receive 60 to 70 calls in a night on his cell phone alone. Word of mouth has meant everything for Scott's Taxi, he said.
As far as business competition, there are about five other taxi operations in the Coeur d'Alene area, he said.
His rigs stand out, with Bob Marley, Jimmy Buffett, NASCAR and Rockstar Energy Drink themes.
He said when he first got into the business it was all about making a living.
That has changed somewhat, he said. There's more to it now, he said.
"We're doing more than moving people for a living," he said. "It's personal. We get to see their lives and where they are coming from."