The small fleet of London black cabs that's been in operation in Charleston for about nine years has been idled once again, and the Charleston Black Cab Co. has changed hands.
This time, most of the iconic vehicles could end up leaving the city for good.
The LTI TXII taxis, powered by a 4-cylinder Ford diesel engine and a common sight in London, first arrived in Charleston in 2005 when English expatriates Carl and Verity Rowe set up the Charleston Black Cab Co. When they returned to England in 2012, Jerry Crosby of Charleston Yellow Cab answered their charming advertisement "seeking someone with the motivation to love, nurture and develop our offspring."
Crosby bought the company and 10 vehicles, looking to get into the special events business. It was an experience he said he "thoroughly enjoyed" until a few months ago, when he decided to sell.
"With a little too much on my plate, I was being stretched thin," Crosby said. "I had to make a move, so I decided to close down that side of my business."
He sold one of the London cabs to an Atlanta advertising agency. Another was sold locally to David Rister, president of ACW Limo.
"We feel that with our current fleet, it was going to be a great addition and we can continue to service both business clients and couples getting married that are attracted to the London Black Cabs," Rister said.
The Charleston Black Cab Co. business - the company name and website - was sold to another limo company, James Island-based An Executive Travel. Company owner Toan Dao, a Charleston resident since 1991, said he drove for the original Charleston Black Cab Co., and he didn't want the vehicles.
Dao said the London cabs have lots of miles on them, spare parts are hard to come by, and the air conditioning is better suited to London than Charleston. His company uses SUVs and Volkswagen Passat sedans, all of which are black, and also has a party bus.
Dao said purchasing the Charleston Black Cab Co. name and website has resulted in large gains in business.
"We've seen a 300 percent increase in call volume, which is tremendous," he said. "There's a large demand for affordable, quality car service."
The remaining London black cabs are up for sale. Crosby said he has a tentative deal with a limo company in Dallas.
"If they don't follow through, then the seven (vehicles) will be available for anyone to purchase," Crosby said.
The 2004 taxis have between 100,000 and 150,000 miles on them, and Crosby hopes to sell them for $19,000 each.
Crosby said he enjoyed working with the special event and hospitality businesses, and served more than 1,000 weddings with the black cabs. Some of the vehicles were also sent to other cities, on the East Coast and in California, for use in advertising campaigns.
Reach David Slade at 937-5552.