In rural areas with no access to public transit, the critical role played by taxi companies in getting people where they need to go is an often unheralded one. But it’s one recently inherited with infectious enthusiasm by new K&K Cab owner Leanda Bracegirdle, who acts as both dispatcher, driver and late-night bookkeeper.
In between fielding phone calls and leaving to pick up customers, Bracegirdle managed to squeeze in a few moments of quiet to speak recently with Hometown News about what she calls her dream job.
“I was looking for a business where I could be my own boss, and when this opportunity came up, it was perfect, because I like to drive and I love talking with people,” says the Sarnia-born, Perth-raised Bracegirdle, whose family came to the area when her father took a position at the old Perth jail.
A graduate of Perth & District Collegiate, the multi-talented Bracegirdle has also run a flooring business, and for years has provided bookkeeping services for numerous clients in the area. With three grown children having left home, empty-nester Bracegirdle – who also cares for a half-dozen cats – is working long hours to service a large area where getting groceries, making doctors’ appointments, and simply socializing can be a challenge for those without a vehicle.
“Cabs are just another part of the urban transportation infrastructure, but in rural Lanark County, we’re one of the only options available to a surprisingly large number of people,” she says, adding that while the cab company is a business, she very much sees her work as a modest form of public service too.
“Getting people from point A to B is the bare minimum in cab work, and as far as I’m concerned, I want our drivers to do a lot more,” she says, noting she’s getting to know the regular K&K client base by being on the road herself seven days a week.
“It’s about helping people in and out of the vehicle if they have mobility issues, it’s checking in with them to see how they’re doing, it’s loading in and dropping off groceries. A lot of the people we drive can be socially isolated, and we may be the only people they speak with for a little while. So that’s a nice thing to be a friendly ear to someone who has something to share, and it’s as good for us as it is for them.”
Bracegirdle is particularly happy that she has a van on the road, noting elderly riders are grateful they do not have to crouch down to get into their seats, and getting out is easier than in a regular car. “Plus there’s an awesome amount of leg room for tall people, and it’s fantastic for larger groups who need to get around,” she says, adding no other company in Perth has a van in their fleet.
With 4 vehicles servicing most of Lanark County, she says “we’ll go where we’re required,” and although there are set hours of operation (Monday to Thursday from 6 am to 11 pm, and 24-hour service from Fridays at 6 am to Sundays at 11 pm), she says anyone who provides decent notice will be provided transportation outside of those hours.
Bracegirdle is also proud that 50% of her drivers are female, a significant change from the stereotype of cabbies as cigar-chomping wiseacres sporting bald pates and thick Brooklyn accents. “We have a great team, some of whom we inherited from (previous owner) Kathy Farrar, and the company has always had a great reputation too,” she adds.
Just a month into owning the company, Bracegirdle ran head-first into the challenges of a damaging windstorm, missing by seconds a tree that came across her path on a rural road. “It was one of those moments where everyone in the cab took a breath and said, ‘Did that just really happen, and isn’t it great that we chatted for a minute or so before we got going when I picked them up? Otherwise, we might have been hit by that tree!’”
Owning K&K has been “a lot of fun” for Bracegirdle, who says she particularly enjoys meeting a wide range of people. “Cab driving is a lot like bartending, because you can meet perfect strangers who will open up and share just about anything with you, which is a real treat,” she says. “You meet a lot of great people. It’s a lot of work, but it’s a privilege to do it.”
Those needing to hail a K&K cab will immediately recognize Bracegirdle’s voice when they call (613) 264-4001.