When Bill Fox went to buy a bus for his new business venture, he didn’t know that it would be a meaningful exchange.
“It was for sale on Craig’s List,” said Fox of what is now called “The Bloody Mary,” one of three vehicles used in his designated driver service.
When Fox went to pick up the bus from Denton, Md., he met Amanda Hill, whose husband, John, had been a school bus driver.
“When we told her what we were going to do with it, that we were going to use it as a designated driver bus so people weren’t driving and driving, she started to cry,” he recalled. “She pointed to her six kids jumping on a trampoline and said that’s my husband’s bus, and he was killed by a drunk driver on 404, and that’s the last thing I have of him.”
Fox said Hill’s story has stayed with him, and he even put a plaque on the rear of the bus in memory of John Hill.
A few weeks ago, Fox was driving the Bloody Mary when it started to act up.
“It was shuddering and all kinds of crazy stuff. I pulled over at a gas station in Millsboro to see what was the matter, and I get out of the Bloody Mary, and there she is, with four of her six kids,” said Fox of Hill.
“I told her what was going on. I said, ‘The bus was acting funny, so I pulled over here, and it just so happens I meet you here.’ We took some pictures, exchanged information said our goodbyes. I got back in the truck, started it up — and nothing wrong with it.”
Fox said the meeting was serendipitous, and meeting the Hill family shows the importance of his business.
“I think it was John who made me pull over, so his family could see the bus,” he said. “Sometimes I get discouraged with repairs, expenses and stuff like that. When something like that happens, it just shows me what I’m supposed to be doing.”
Along with the Bloody Mary, Fox also has his original pirate-themed bus, the Black Pearl, and the newly acquired Admiral Loco, a six-wheel-drive military troop carrier truck. The Admiral Loco will be used for sightseeing tours around the area, as well as designated driver services, when Fox doesn’t have it on the beach for surf fishing.
His limousine service serves the Sussex coastal area and charges an hourly fee or offers a flat rate to rent out one of the two buses for up to eight hours.
“Basically, we’ll have three different buses in the area. There’ll be one in Fenwick, one in Millville and one in Rehoboth. If you’re in the general area and call, we’ll come and get you, if we’re available,” he explained, noting that he does try to provide safe rides as much as possible. “People can call in advance for a pickup, or they would reserve the bus. If there are people during that time and someone needs a ride home, we’ll try to accommodate them.”
Fox said everyone from visitors to locals to businesses have embraced his service.
“Locals have really embraced the buses. They know the importance of staying off the road and not drinking and driving. A lot of the locals rent them out for all kinds of things — birthday parties and bachelorette parties — anything,” he said. “The community then saw what we were doing and said, ‘Hey, we want you to do this.”
Now the three vehicles have more than 30 sponsors, including Matteo’s Salsa Loco, Fox’s Pizza and Studio 26, showing their support of the enterprise.
“It takes a whole village,” he said. “Everyone in this community has been great to us and shown that they want this service to stay here.”
Fox said that, because of the support he has received, he hopes to give back to the community by raising money for local charities, but he has yet to pick one.
“I want to give back to the area, since it’s given me so much to us,” he said.
Fox added that his vehicles are up to state standards for safety and have seatbelts, fire extinguishers, first aid kits and even ladders because, if you’re planning on having a fun night out on the town, why not do it safely?
“This place is real fun. And remember, what happens here in southern Delaware stays in southern Delaware. What happens on the bus stays on the bus,” said Fox with a laugh.
For more information or to schedule a ride with the Black Pearl Designated Driver Services, call (302) 569-2273, or find them on Facebook.