By DOUG WILSON
Herald-Whig Senior Writer
The owners of the Bee Line Express charter service hope someone will step forward to keep the business on the road after auctioneers sell off the company's building, vehicles and contents Saturday.
Kathy Mutchler and Kathy O'Hara retired at the end of April and plan to travel in a 38-foot motor home. Mutchler left an outgoing message on the Bee-Line Express phone saying that the shuttle service that was launched in 2002 is closed.
"If you want to call back, probably toward the end of May, new business owners might be able to answer any questions you've got at that time," Mutchler said.
Just days before she retired, Mutchler said there were a few people interested in the business, but nothing was guaranteed.
"I've been planning this for a while. I've turned 60 and wanted to be out enjoying retirement," Mutchler said.
Bee-Line has been a "charter ground transportation provider," taking people to airports, hospitals or anywhere within a 300-mile radius. In recent years the business has operated four vehicles, employing three drivers in addition to Mutchler and O'Hara. That was down from the peak of five smaller vehicles and a 15-passenger van that Bee-Line operated in 2008. The business had 10 employees at that high-water mark.
"The economic downturn hit us. There was limited travel, at least temporarily" after the recession hit, Mutchler said.
When Cape Air started making flights between Quincy and St. Louis, Bee-Line suffered another setback. Cape Air offers $49, one-way tickets on most flights and has been much more reliable than previous airlines serving Quincy Regional Airport.
Even with those challenges, Mutchler said Bee-Line has enough customers to sustain the business. She hopes someone will step forward to buy most of it outright so the service doesn't lapse for too long.
Saturday's auction will begin at 10 a.m. The building and parking lot will be sold first, and business furnishings and computers will be sold later. Vehicles will be sold in the third segment of the auction and then furnishings for the two-floor loft that dominates the second and third floors of 129 N. Fourth.
"We've had great experiences here and wonderful clients. I hope somebody will take the company over. There's a real need for it," Mutchler said.