New cab co. in town

Former Liberty drivers strike out on their own; Paradise Rocks welcomes Ridge visitors

I used Uber for the first time a few weeks ago. My boyfriend, Chuck, and I were in Utah for a family reunion and the rideshare app cut 50 percent off the cost of a ride into town from where we were staying. It certainly was convenient—and cost-effective—but it still felt weird to me riding around in some dude’s 2008 Nissan rather than a marked taxi driven by a professional.

Needless to say, I’ve never used Uber in Chico. So I was surprised, to say the least, when Liberty Cab went under back in May. I’d asked former owner Gianni Caponera if Uber was to blame. He told me this: “More than likely. Just not in a way that we expected. We’ve heard other companies complain about their customer base moving to Uber and Lyft. This wasn’t the case with us. We didn’t anticipate this rapid drop in our pool of available drivers.”

Liberty had 20 cars—that’s a big loss for a town that likes to drink as much as Chico. But I’m happy to report that this week I received word that two former Liberty drivers, Erik Schmidt and Shawn Heater, bought three cars from their previous employer and hired three drivers as well. They’re going by the name Star Taxi; their first day on Chico streets was July 13.

“We want to keep the tradition of clean, comfortable rides alive,” Schmidt told me in an email, adding that Star Taxi also will continue Liberty’s commitment to giving back to the community. “We feel that Chico is our partner,” he said.

Star Taxi can be reached 24/7 via call or text to 466-8899. Best of luck!

Rockin’ in Paradise Tourism has been a big topic of discussion here in the North State over the past few months, especially with the unveiling of Explore Butte County and its efforts to attract more visitors from other areas of California. Up in Paradise, the Paradise Ridge Chamber of Commerce has explored partnerships with local businesses as a way to extend their reach—“we are only open four days a week, and our sister nonprofit organization, the Gold Nugget Museum, has limited hours as well,” explained Mark Thorp, membership and event coordinator for the chamber.

A relatively new business—Paradise Rocks, which opened on the Skyway last fall—has taken the challenge and run with it. Owner Jennifer Swiger, who also runs Pet Sitting in Paradise, has made her rock and minerals shop something of a secondary visitor center for anyone looking for maps, guides, relocation information or where to find everything from the hospital to local swimming holes. Check it out at 5660 Skyway, Ste. C, or on Facebook.

Nominees, please! If you know someone who’s been particularly inspirational for or made a big impact on local youth, now’s your time to speak up. United Way of Northern California is seeking nominations in three categories: local business, nonprofit organization and individual. Find more info on nominations (due Monday, July 24) and the award breakfast at