Ride in style with new black-car service TC Black

Expect VIP treatment inside a TC Black car with leather seats, a customized music playlist, punctual pickups and a skilled driver wearing a jacket and displaying impeccable manners.

The owner of the Tri-City’s new black-car service is a native Texan and former Navy submariner.

David McClain says his Lone Star State values drive his hospitality and four years on the USS Nevada prepared him to work with people from all walks of life.

He rolled out TC Black in December to fill a niche not offered in the Tri-Cities.

McClain, 44, of Kennewick, quips that he wants to do for Tri-City transportation what Chik-fil-A has done for fast food — pair the best chicken sandwich with the best customer service. Only swap out the chicken for the black luxury cars.

“That’s what TC Black is going to look like. I’ve got the market and it’ll be unparalleled experience,” he said. “I offer big city style and small town service.”

TC Black offers rides inside a gleaming black Volvo sedan or Cadillac Escalade SUV. A Ford F-150 pickup rounds out the fleet.

“A big black vehicle says executive level and status. It’s a need the Tri-Cities has and it’s something I can do better than anyone else,” he said.

McClain should know.

He’s been an Uber driver since the app-based ride-sharing service began in the Tri-Cities two years ago.

He stepped up as an outspoken and passionate proponent for bringing Uber to the Mid-Columbia.

McClain became a de facto Uber spokesman, creating a Facebook page to educate Tri-Citians about the new service, crafting a petition to bring Uber to Pasco (It was the last of the Tri-Cities to allow Uber) and organizing Uber drivers to adopt a stretch of highway, the blue bridge.

He discovered he loved being behind the wheel at this side job, racking up 40,000 miles as an Uber driver last year alone.

“I like driving, conversing with people and building relationships,” he said.

McClain also drove a Second Harvest food truck to Grandview every other Friday for six years.

Plus, his daily commute is 50 miles roundtrip.

McClain works at Energy Northwest as a reactor operator. He’s been with the commercial nuclear power plant north of Richland since 2001.

His four-day-a-week, 10-hours-a-day shift means he’s free Fridays and weekends to chauffeur clients.

If people need mid-week rides, he dispatches his two contracted drivers.

McClain might have been content to stick with Uber for his driving fix, but wanted to provide a higher level of care and experience to his clients, on his own terms, to cut out the middle man.

This stark realization, plus a conversation with a friend who worked for Nike, prompted him to venture out on his own. “He inspired my entrepreneurial spirit,” McClain said. “I knew I had the skillset to launch my own company.”

After reading “Shoe Dog” by Phil Knight, Nike’s founder and CEO, McClain decided to “just do it” and moved “full speed ahead” — to borrow slogans from Nike and the Navy.

He immediately launched a search for the right vehicles.

He didn’t want to acquire debt to start TC Black when he bought the Volvo S90, which seats four, in December, and the Escalade, which seats six, two months later.

He paid $60,000 cash for both cars, though it depleted his family’s nest egg.

It’s not cheap to get a new business off the ground and McClain said he’ll measure his initial success by reaching his first goal: to replenish the nest egg.

McClain had to spend $500 to be fully licensed in each of the Tri-Cities and with the state. He spends $5,000 annually on car insurance. Add in car detailing, personalized license plates, gas and membership to Visit Tri-Cities, among other costs, and the bills continue to climb.

But people are beginning to take notice of his new service.

An East Coast limo company contracted with TC Black to drive around a few high-profile clients. (TC Black has on-tarmac privileges at Bergstrom Aircraft in Pasco.)

McClain knows he needs to get his name out there. “It has to be as familiar as Uber,” he said.

Customers will pay more for TC Black’s services and this is intentional.

“I’m upscale from Uber. I’m not trying to compete with Uber,” he said. “But I can guarantee you the quality of ride you have. I picked the vehicles and I keep them clean and can personally vouch for my drivers — something Uber and Lyft can’t say.”

McClain is proud to offer pricing transparency on his website.

TC Black rides can be booked and paid in advance online, guaranteeing 24/7 availability.

The cost for a point-to-point transfer in the Tri-Cities is $40 in the sedan, $50 in the SUV. For a night on the town for a drop-off and return trip, it’s $65 in the sedan, $85 in the SUV.

Hourly rates are $70 for the sedan, $90 for the SUV, with a minimum two-hour booking.

It’s also easy to add a box of Baum’s chocolates when booking online, too. And customers can select their favorite music in advance.

Add in a flight number for an airport reservation and TC Black will track the flight to ensure prompt pickups. Customers also will receive a meet-and-greet with a chauffeur holding up a sign with their name at the airport.

McClain is looking forward to serving wine enthusiasts and has his eye on the upcoming Spring Barrel weekend, April 26-28.

TC Black also has a mind toward community service, having recently kicked off a “Love the Blue” initiative, offering a free “top-notch date night” to a nominated law enforcement officer and his or her spouse. McClain said he’s seeking businesses interested in donating a meal at a local restaurant for winners of this monthly giveaway. He’ll provide the ride.

“I felt like it might be my calling in life to drive people around,” he said. “I love doing this.”

TC Black is the preferred transportation provider for White Glove Weddings, a Kennewick-based wedding and event planner and coordinator.

McClain’s future business plan includes offering a classic car service.

“My goal is to make you happier when you are dropped off than when I picked you up,” he said.

TC Black: tricitiesblack.com; Facebook; Instagram.

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