Wheeling and Dealing
Calabash resident Bob Kogler makes a living in the driver’s seat.
Bob Kogler enjoys telling people, “No matter what time of day, we’ll get you on your way!” That motto is printed on his business card, and he takes pride in honoring it.
He had not planned on starting his own business when he retired from teaching and coaching in 2004, but by 2005, “I got tired of golf and playing cards every day,” he says. “I’m not the type of person who likes to sit around.”
Through various conversations, he discovered people were willing to pay someone to take them to an airport so they would not have to contend with the inconvenience. He likes to drive and began taking people to ILM and MYR. Word spread that his service was efficient and reasonable.
Keggs and Mary Simpson of Ocean Isle Beach have had Kogler drive them to the Myrtle Beach airport twice. “He is very polite,” Keggs says. “He loads the luggage, helps you get in and out of the car and is easy to talk to. I highly recommend him.”
Kogler started receiving requests for transportation to parties, weddings, bars and restaurants. “Over the years it grew and grew and grew and grew,” he says. To fulfill the demand, he hired another driver.
“Now I have two 15-passenger Ford vans and my Kia Sorrento,” he says. “I can take 28 people using two vehicles.”
The local airports continue to be popular destinations, but Kogler has requests for rides to Charleston and Charlotte too.
Most of his fares are tame, but bachelor and bachelorette parties and pub crawls can be problematic.
“I explain to the people that I have two buckets, and if you get sick on my seats, you have to pay for the cleanup. The cost is $250.” He pauses. “I’ve only had to do that once.” Other inebriated customers have required more assistance. “I’ve had to take people out of my car and put them to bed,” he says.
Kogler extends himself in other ways as well. One day when all the flights were late, he was not going to get to a passenger for at least 45 minutes. To compensate, he told her to use Uber to get her from the Myrtle Beach airport to Ocean Isle Beach and he would pay the fare. “My charge round trip is $120,” he says. “Uber charged her $122 one way. It gives you an idea that I try to keep my prices low.”
Another customer hired him to take her to Jacksonville, Florida, because she did not want to drive her car by herself. She told him she would take him to the Jacksonville airport so he could fly back home. He charged $800 for the service but did not charge her for the airplane ticket because, he says, “I’m using her car and her gas.”
Many of his regular customers dubbed him “Airport Bob,” but he adopted the name “Bob the Fish” and wears a T-shirt with that emboldened on it. He explains that while on vacation in Aruba he saw a T-shirt store by that name. He returns to that island often and has about two dozen of the T-shirts.
“I buy them because part of the sale goes to cleaning the ocean,” he says.
Kogler was born in Brooklyn and grew up in Long Island. He went to the University of New York at Geneseo and taught social studies and coached football at Longwood High School in Long Island for 32 years.
He and his late wife, Susan, bought a condominium in Calabash in 1995 when their son Kyle enrolled in Coastal Carolina University. The couple commuted during those years, but later they decided to make Calabash their permanent residence and bought a home. Both his sons live in the area, so he sees his three grandchildren often.
After Susan passed away in 2011, a cousin of hers wanted to help Kogler socialize again, and she recommended him for a job as an extra on television shows and movies.
“The first (movie) job I had was the remake of the Spector story,” Kogler says. “I had a short speaking role.” He remembers the lines he spoke: “Hang him. Hang him. He is the devil’s seed.” The words refer to Phil Spector, who was convicted of killing actress Lana Clarkson. “It was interesting to meet the big names,” he says. “Helen Mirren was the kindest, nicest lady. She ate with [the extras] and talked to us. Al Pacino’s bodyguards would keep us away from him. He wouldn’t eat or mingle with the extras.”
Kogler also had roles on the television series Blue Bloods, Law and Order and Royal Pains. “Right now the movie theater scene has died out here (in Wilmington),” he says. “The closest place is Georgia.”
But Kogler is satisfied with the driving business he has established. “I enjoy my job, and I enjoy meeting people,” he says. “I always show up early. I say, ‘Better early than late.’”
When not driving he plays golf, walks on the beach or goes out with his girlfriend. “[The job] gives me money I can use to go on vacation,” he says.
As to any drawbacks of being a driver, Kogler says, “What I like least is the hours,” he says. “I get up at 2:45 or 3 o’clock in the morning, but it’s part of the job, so I do it.”
Besides, he adds, “There are no Uber or Lyft drivers where we live here in the south end of the county. You either have a taxi or me.”
Need a Ride?
Kogler’s Kar Service
Photography by Hilary Halliwell