For Black History Month, the AFRO presents a series of articles highlighting important local heroes from the paper’s archives. This week’s hero is Robert DeKine, a young man who started a horse taxi service during a gas shortage in the country. The article appeared in the AFRO in 1974.
A unique taxi service has been instituted in this city by a young entrepreneur.
For $30-an-hour Robert DeKine will take passengers all over the city in a horse and carriage.
Operating only one of four carriages and two horses, his is the only taxi service of its kind in the city.
“Right now I’m Hertz. I’m number one and would like to maintain my number one status here,” he affirms. “I broke my back to set up this business.”
* * *
Upon moving to Washington DeKine says he was amazed that in an interesting town as D.C., there were no horses and buggies as those that travel through New York City. He immediately decided to establish Colony Carriage Company.
Being unique, the demand for his service is great. Restaurants and clothing stores seek his services as an advertising display. Mothers want to rent the carriages for birthday parties.
Theatre-goers find travelling via horse and buggy a chic way to make an appearance.
DeKine has even had a man hire his service to propose to his girlfriend.
Even nostalgia nuts have borne the steep price for an old-fashioned ride around town.
But the demand outweighs the supply, and DeKine neither has the man power nor capital to put more horses on the streets. Food and shelter for the horses, he says, are extremely expensive.
* * *
Asked if he thought it might become vogue to revert to the days of horses and buggies now that the energy crisis is prominent, DeKine replied, “No.”
“Once you get used to cars, unless you are an outdoor person or have a lot of nostalgic feelings, cars are much easier.
Horses are too expensive to keep up. But when you can’t get gas, horses will have to suffice.”
* * *
DeKine carries his passengers in elegant carriages.
Most often he uses his 1870 German Brougham Carriage, but he also has a 100-year-old Phaeton, an open carriage with an umbrella, wealthy Parisian ladies used to travel in, and an old American surrey.
DeKine has been productive in the business world.
He has owned restaurants and nightclubs in Puerto Rico and a martial arts club and nightclub in New York.