Tiny's Taxi makes its big debut to honor grandma

Mike Lewis, the owner of Tiny's Taxi, is committed to offering 24-hour, seven-day-a-week service, even if he has to sleep with his phone and headset to do it.

The new business has been giving rides around town since it opened April 13.

After graduating from Wrangell High School in 1988, Lewis spent about 30 years moving around the western United States doing construction jobs. He lived in Anchorage, Soldotna, Washington state, Colorado, Los Angeles and Palm Springs in California, Hawaii, Arizona and more. But when two shoulder surgeries forced him to give up construction work, he decided to return to his hometown and start a business.

He got the idea for a taxi service in the winter of 2022, when he learned that his grandparents had run a taxi in Wrangell during the '40s and '50s. "I've got a long line of ancestors that were born here," he said. "My grandma was a Stokes, and she's the one that had a taxi service here in town. ... It was called Star Taxi."

He named his company in honor of his grandma, Elizabeth Stokes. Since she was only 4-foot-11, he and his family called her "Grandma Tiny."

"What better way to honor her memory than to use her AKA," he said.

He used a pinup girl as the company logo since that style of makeup and dress would have been popular during the years she was running the old taxi company.

Even though another taxi company - Johnny Cab - already exists in town, Lewis hopes that between tourism and the Trident seafood processing plant reopening, there will be room for another one.

"I've gotten a really positive response from the community all the way around," he said. "People are happy to have another option. ... I think competition is good for every business. ... (I'm) giving the island the chance to have another opportunity, another phone to ring."

For Lewis, running a 24-hour service makes for a demanding work schedule. "I sleep when I can," he said. Whether he's dropping travelers off at the ferry terminal at 3 a.m. or transporting nurses to the hospital for their early shifts, Lewis works when he's needed and tries to fit naps into the spaces between jobs.

"I just leave the phone on 24/7 and kind of take pride in making certain that I always answer my calls," he said.

He has no immediate plans to hire additional drivers. "I've got to build a business before I can start thinking about hiring other people out," he said. Because of Wrangell's limited customer base, the newness of the business and the other taxi service in town, Lewis isn't yet sure how much demand he'll get moving forward.

But despite these challenges, business is good so far. "I had no idea I would be this busy, to be honest with you," he said. "A lot of people take advantage of not driving after having been to the bars. It's nice to see that a lot of people respect the DUI laws. The traveling nurses use my service quite a bit. I'm getting busier every day for sure."

 

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