Driver training

Four local residents
team up to buy Madison Trolleys

New owners say both trolleys
will remain in Madison

By Don Ward

(October 2005) – The twin Madison Trolleys have been sold but will stay in Madison, Ind.

Madison Trolley owners

Photo by Don Ward

The new Madison Trolley owners include
(from left) Jim Grant, Ann
and Rick Lostutter and Dave Adams.

Owners Keith Brubaker and Dave Daghir had been advertising their desire to sell the trolleys early this year. In late September, a partnership comprised of Jim Grant, Dave Adams and Rick and Ann Lostutter bought the two trolleys for the advertised price of $40,000. They will take over the ownership on Nov. 1, following Brubaker’s planned end of his trolley season on Oct. 31, which also ends his decade-long run with the popular vehicles.
“Our purchase will ensure that the trolleys stay in Madison, and I think that’s what everyone wants,” said Grant, who owns the Main Cross Antiques and Madison Fudge Factory.
Adams, a Madison city councilman and a former Madison Main Street director, has been active in promoting downtown Madison businesses and the weekly Farmers’ Market. Both Rick and Ann Lostutter are Indiana natives who moved to Madison from Salinas, Calif., a little more than a year ago. They have experience in tourism-related activities by planning large nonprofit events. Lostutter currently works as a web and graphics designer from his downtown Madison home. His parents, Don and Linda Lostutter, also reside in Madison. Don is a former basketball coach at Madison Consolidated High School. Ann is a certified kitchen designer.
The Lostutters own 51 percent of the new partnership, which will take over the existing Madison Trolley Inc. business entity. The trolleys, which began a decade ago as a nonprofit entity under the name, Madison Tourism Council, will continue to operate as a for-profit operation.
Brubaker bought out most of Daghir’s part in the trolleys a year ago and changed it to for-profit status.

Madison Trolley

Photo by Don Ward

The Madison Trolley has been operating
in Madison for a decade.

“Since moving to town, we have been looking for something that would involve us in both the business community and civic activity,” Lostutter said. “Jim approached us about this, and it sounded like a fun thing to do.”
“I think there is a lot of potential to expand the season for the trolleys here in Madison from six to nine months. We’ve also got other promotional ideas,” said Grant, who has marketing experience with larger firms prior to moving to Madison in 2000. Grant also has been active in tourism in Madison and in May received a statewide Hospitality Award. Adams received the county’s annual Hospitality Award on the same day.
“We plan to meet with the tourism board soon to discuss our ideas for possibly operating the trolleys into December for the Candlelight Tour of Homes, but maybe not this year,” Grant said. “We’d like to operate them all year, except for January, February and March.”
The CVB board was presented with a letter from Daghir at its Sept. 14 meeting asking the board to consider buying the trolleys to ensure that they remain in Madison. After much discussion of the rising cost of insurance and the work required to operate and maintain them, the board decided to approach Madison Mayor Al Huntington about having the city purchase, store, maintain and operate them.
“We just don’t have the money to buy and operate them,” said board president Bob Woldschlag.
With the recent sale, the issue is now moot.
Brubaker, 62, is semi-retired but has been operating the trolleys since their existence, along with part-time drivers Judy Duncan and Becky King. Both women have expressed interest in continuing to drive the trolleys for the new owners, whoever they might be.
In addition to weekly guided tours offered at $10 per day, Brubaker over the years has been contracted to ferry passengers around town during weddings, reunions and other special events, and for large groups arriving by steamboat, passenger barge and bus.
This year, the trolleys have operated Friday through Monday only but were available for charter any other time. Most rides originate at the Lanier-Madison Visitors Center at 601 W. First St. For many years, the original open-air trolley was limited seasonally by weather. The second enclosed trolley was added just two years ago.
“We have grown steadily over the years and generally give up to 3,500 paid rides per season,” Brubaker said. “That does not include the groups that we contract out with.”
In his letter to the CVB board, Daghir estimated that the trolleys’ annual gross revenue is approximately $40,000, with a net profit of between $5,000 and $8,000. But the rising cost of insurance and fuel may change those estimates.
This year’s insurance premium of $3,700 was projected to double to $7,000 for next year, Daghir said in his letter. A government-related owner, such as the CVB or city, however, could possibly be exempt from new insurance requirements being imposed by the Indiana Department of Transportation for next year.
The new private owners will be subject to these new insurance requirements.
“Even with the new insurance costs, the trolleys can still be profitable,” Brubaker said. “We made money every season, and we didn’t do everything we could have to market them. So there is a lot of potential for the new owners.”

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