K.I.S.S. Caboose: Better Than A Rideshare

K.I.S.S. Caboose, Downtown Knoxville, January 2023 (Photo Courtesy of Gina Kelly)
K.I.S.S. Caboose, Downtown Knoxville, January 2023 (Photo Courtesy of Gina Kelly)

(Ed. Note: Today’s article is by guest writer Heather Ryerson.)

Walking downtown on any given weekend displays that Knoxville has to offer. One of the things you’ll notice is the K.I.S.S. Caboose. Founder Gina Kelly is an ambassador for local businesses and brings laughter and joy to Knoxville’s downtown. Her mission is to spread cheer and share about our great city. She is doing that one ride at a time through K.I.S.S. Caboose

K.I.S.S. stands for Knoxville Information Shuttle Service. There is no charge to ride; however, she encourages tips. The business model works similarly to the service industry in that wages are paid primarily through gratuity from patrons. Tipping is encouraged, and after a trip with any of these folks, you can’t help but want to reward them for their services. The drivers accept Venmo, cash, Cashapp, and Square and keep 100% of the tips. However, no one is turned away from a ride due to the inability to tip. 

K.I.S.S. Caboose, Downtown Knoxville, January 2023 (Photo by Heather Ryerson)
K.I.S.S. Caboose, Downtown Knoxville, January 2023 (Photo Courtesy of Gina Kelly)

K.I.S.S. Caboose began in 2020 amidst the pandemic. Gina had worked with a previous company, Joyride, which had a similar model. When they left the Knoxville market, she saw an opportunity and decided to take the leap with the encouragement and support of her husband and business partner, Sean. 

Gina and her crew provide information on restaurants, businesses, and fun points of interest around the downtown area while on your ride. They provide coverage of the core of the city, around UT’s campus, to Ijams Nature Center, the Downtown Island Airport, and as far as Fanatic Brewing on Central St. It is about a 4-mile radius, but over a few hours, those miles add up. On my tour with her, in less than an hour, we drove 17 miles around town as she shared her enthusiasm and knowledge with me. 

I saw first-hand the joy she spreads in her vintage micro-van (imported from Japan), fondly nicknamed Twinkie. This 1997 Subaru Sambar is eye-catching with its blue and yellow polka dots and KISS Caboose branding. People smiled and pointed as we passed. Some stopped to ask questions. Other drivers honked in solidarity, particularly those on motorcycles or other small vehicles. You can also find them in Polly, the Polaris Ranger Crew Cab. Coming soon, they will add another micro-van to keep up with demand. It is yet to be named.

K.I.S.S. Caboose, Downtown Knoxville, January 2023 (Photo Courtesy of Gina Kelly)

Gina’s team won a 2022 Pauly Award for Community Service-Tourism through the Greater Knoxville Hospitality Association. This is a well-deserved honor earned in just two years of business. They are up to 5 regular team members with a few subs and operate every weekend with increased hours to cover significant events such as the Bass Master Classic coming in March, the Big Ears Festival, holidays, and of course, game days.

“Having fun and being safe are our two top priorities. And in a world where folks are mired down in their daily responsibilities, social media drama, and negativity. Fun and laughter are in short supply. We try to keep things light,” Gina says. 

She added, “Now that we have built a strong foundation serving Airbnb guests, hotel guests, and locals, we are working on implementing seasonal city tours and expanding our sponsorship packages. There are eleven hotels in our service area, and only one provides its own in-house shuttle service. The other hotels and valets are a consistent source of referrals for us. We will build on those relationships to offer tours to their guests.”

K.I.S.S. Caboose, Downtown Knoxville, January 2023 (Photo Courtesy of Gina Kelly)

So, the next time you’re downtown, wave at the KISS Caboose team or take a ride for yourself! Whether you need a ride back to your vehicle, to get from point A to point B, had a little too much fun, or are looking to have more fun, give them a call or send a text to get your complimentary ride. But remember to tip! 

Join their Facebook and Instagram pages to keep track of contact info, hours of availability, and fun announcements. Anyone interested in advertising with K.I.S.S. Caboose or booking private services can call 865-722-0779 or email gina@kisscaboose.com