Transportation options have always been slim around Nelson.
For over two decades, Queen City Shuttle and Charters provided a much-needed service to the region that included airport shuttles from Nelson to Castlegar and Spokane as well as private charters. Its clients included Teck, Selkirk College, Kootenay Lake school district and even the Nelson Leafs.
But its users were left on the curb when Queen City unexpectedly shut down in May.
Queen City operated for a decade under owners Mirek Hladik and June Ray. When they sold the company to Alain Chiasson in February 2018 it included six coach buses, four international vehicles and three shuttle vans.
Chiasson initially declined to say why he was closing Queen City just 15 months after taking ownership.
“I tried [and] failed. Didn’t work out and I’m sorry about it,” he said in a brief interview with the Star. “I know it’s an important business for the community but that’s the way it is.”
His former employees, it turned out, would be more forthcoming.
Two months after the company closed, the Star published an account of its final days as told by managers Kat Fair and Craig Luke.
They said Queen City was profitable and growing when Chiasson informed he owed $50,000 in income taxes and was going bankrupt. Instead of waiting to sell the company, he decided to wash his hands of it. Three days after he spoke to Fair and Luke, Chiasson made it official: Queen City was no more.
“It was completely just needless. That’s what frustrated me,” Luke said. “He basically yard-saled the entire company because of his personal issues. He didn’t care at all about all the staff and the community he left behind.”
Hladik, who said he received financial updates from Chiasson, thought the company had already grown 30 per cent in the time between his sale to Chiasson and its closure.
“We were shocked,” says Hladik. “There was absolutely no reason to shut it down in my opinion.”
Chiasson left Nelson shortly after, and declined multiple requests to speak with the Star.
Since the closure, Castlegar’s Mountain Transport Institute has moved to fill the void left by Queen City by opening a charter bus division, buying some of Queen City’s vehicles and even hiring a number of its staff.
But now if someone in Nelson wants to get a lift to Castlegar Airport, they’d better prepare to hitchhike.