He had golden touch in transportation

Paul S. Mears Sr., a transportation pioneer, built a three-cab business into a fleet of taxis and buses serving Orlando International Airport and the attractions. He was also a founding investor and franchisee of Avis Rent-A-Car.

Mears died Friday at his home after a yearlong illness, his family said. He was 91.

His three sons, who run Mears Transportation Group, remembered him as an aggressive, but fair, businessman.

In a family statement, they recalled his favorite saying: "It's not a business deal unless both parties to it are happy; otherwise somebody is stealing from somebody else."

One of his sons, James Mears, said Saturday his father believed the transportation business was a moral obligation, helping people get to their destinations, whether that was the office, the hospital or a Central Florida attraction.

"He always believed in the utmost in integrity," James Mears said.

It was never enough to accomplish goals; you had to do it in a fair and equitable way, said James Mears.

Paul Mears started the company in 1939, and its success tracked the region's growth into a major tourist destination and the rise of OIA into a major airport.

Mears Transportation added airport shuttles in 1983. One of Mears taxicab companies, Yellow Cab Co., is the largest provider of taxicab services at OIA.

Mears Transportation now has more than 1,100 vehicles, including taxicabs, luxury sedans, limousines and shuttle buses.

While Mears was an astute businessman, he later regretted exiting one business too early.

In 1949, Mears received the Central Florida franchise from Avis Rent-A-Car for $100. He expanded the business throughout the Southeast and had operations in 10 cities. He sold the business in the late 1960s, a decision he later regretted because Avis grew into a valuable brand, said his sons.

Although nearly 3,000 people worked for Mears, the company remains a family business.

Paul Mears Jr. is the company's chairman. James L. Mears and Jonathan P. Mears are directors. Several grandchildren also work in the company.

James Mears said his father not only expected those around him to achieve, but he also demanded it at every turn.

"He always said not to take shortcuts," James Mears said.

Even at age 90, with his vision worsening from macular degeneration, the elder Mears had his personal driver take him to the office so he could check on the empire he built.

In his later years, Mears owned homes in New Smyrna Beach and Waynesville, N.C. His wife of 65 years, Cora, died in January 2006.

A funeral service will be 2 p.m. Wednesday at First Presbyterian Church, 106 E. Church St., Orlando. Baldwin-Fairchild Funeral Home in Orlando is handling arrangements.

CONTACT: Babita Persaud can be reached at bpersaud@orlandosentinel.com or 407-420-6088.

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