By Brandon Walker EBS LOCAL EDITOR
BIG SKY – Three years ago Ben Keefe came up with the idea to create a taxi service in Big Sky. Having ventured into the Uber realm with minimal success in the Big Sky community, he concluded that a consistent schedule was the key factor lacking to make the industry successful. Fast forward to present day and COVID-19 has altered that plan for now.
Keefe and his business partner, Jade Nef, have adapted their vision to fit the COVID-19 landscape—albeit in a complimentary way. Rather than providing taxi service for the time being, Mountain and Canyon Cab Company will offer grocery and food delivery to the hungry, holed up bellies of Big Sky.
“[I] just love this place and been living here for years and wanted to give back and help the community out,” Keefe said. MAC Cab will be providing their services free of charge, but welcome any generous contributions from those benefiting from their services, according to mountainandcanyoncab.com.
Originally from Albany, New York, Keefe and his wife relocated to Big Sky seven years ago. After trying his hand at a couple different jobs in town, he decided that he wanted to work for himself. Keefe already owns and operates his own home inspection company, Gallatin Home Inspections, which led him to seek help, in the form of a partner, to assist with the operations of MAC Cab.
Prior to the pandemic-related challenges, Keefe was faced with adversity in finding a business partner. “I have talked to multiple people over the past few years about that and…[we] weren’t on the same page about it,” Keefe said in a March 13 interview. “Then I finally got ahold of my friend, Jade, who is my now-business partner.”
Prior to the pandemic, Keefe and Nef were preparing to launch their business by the end of March. The plan was an on-demand taxi service to provide transportation throughout Big Sky, even offering airport rides dependent on demand at the time.
Projected hours of operation were slated for 2 p.m. to 2 a.m. in the winter with adjusted hours to offer more daytime service in the summer months. MAC Cab’s vehicles, 2020 Toyota Highlander Hybrids, selected with sustainability values in mind, will even be complete with the traditional dome-style taxi light.
“Eventually we will just be 24-hour service, but for right now, starting off, those are going to be our…hours of operation,” Keefe said before COVID-19 events began to unfold.
Insert the unforeseen health crisis, stay-at-home directives, delays in obtaining their vehicles and MAC Cab has emerged with an altered plan to lend a hand to the community they aim to serve with their two-vehicle fleet.
“Starting when this is all happening is pretty scary,” Keefe said in a phone interview with EBS on April 9. “Just not knowing whether or not we would be able to make it work with…everything shutting down.”
Nevertheless, MAC Cab is forging on to assist their friends and neighbors, starting this week by reaching out to area businesses, asking if they need help with deliveries.
“Hoping we can help serve the community and just help everyone stay safe and get people what they need,” Keefe said. “…help the businesses maybe get a little more business in town—restaurants, grocery stores and stuff—and just help keep the town moving.”