Ed Domain Is Still Standing

An Arch Grant brought him to town. A terrible taxi ride almost destroyed him

Ed Domain came to St. Louis after winning an Arch Grant. He left on far less celebratory terms.
Ed Domain came to St. Louis after winning an Arch Grant. He left on far less celebratory terms. PHOTO BY DOYLE MURPHY

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click to enlarge Harris Cab operated for years from its Washington Avenue headquarters, despite numerous civil judgments and federal liens against the business. - PHOTO BY DOYLE MURPHY
PHOTO BY DOYLE MURPHY
Harris Cab operated for years from its Washington Avenue headquarters, despite numerous civil judgments and federal liens against the business.

He took a friend's advice last year and began to see a counselor, working through crash-related PTSD. He says he learned that in the five stages of grief, most get stuck in the second stage — anger.

Slowly, he began to shift his focus away from the politics and a system that still burns in his mind if he lets it. He eats better and has started hiking again, heading off to Castlewood State Park during his last weeks in Missouri.

Maybe the most surprising thing, he says, is to find people still want to work with him when he was certain his very public, very loud crusade had made him toxic.

"I thought I was done, but then people started calling and saying, 'Hey, would you be interested in this?'" he says. "The second I started letting it go and being positive, everything started happening."

To this day, he has deep allies in St. Louis, who describe him as a genuine and kind man who refused to bow to city politics.

"Ed did it his way, and I really admire how he didn't give up," says Ginger Imster, who was the executive director of Arch Grants before joining the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership, "I might not do it the same way, but I appreciate the tenacity with which he approached the situation."

Says Clark, "People thought they could bury him. They couldn't, but they thought they could."

Liz Lohman, the founder of Cubicle.com, and her entrepreneur husband, Dan, basically adopted Domain as part of their family after he was injured. It was heartbreaking to see him struggling to keep the dream of his company alive while also fighting so hard for what she and others in the startup community generally saw as a righteous cause.

"When he stood up and pointed at the taxicab commission — that was him trying to make things better," she says. "He was wronged, almost killed, and he was just trying to make things better."

Friends sometimes questioned his tactics, but they point out he was ultimately effective. Uber and Lyft now operate in the city and county. Two years after Domain first went public with his war on the MTC, the services have even gained access to St. Louis Lambert International Airport, one of the last strongholds of the cab industry.

He has also outlasted several of his enemies. Harris Cab has quietly gone out of business, and construction crews at its former Washington Boulevard headquarters last week were busy renovating the space for something new.

Hamilton, who famously had Domain tossed from the July 2015 commission meeting, resigned from the MTC five months later. He says it had nothing to do with Domain: "I just have no opinion of the guy, because I don't know him." But he admits he is "happy as a clam" that he's no longer fighting the battles on the commission.

"I wish him well," he says. "He's not had anything good to say about me."

The MTC did increase liability insurance for cabs to $400,000 from the $200,000 minimum at the time of Domain's crash. But that turned out to be a little too progressive. In May, after complaints from the cab companies, the commission lowered it to $125,000.

click to enlarge Domain left his Cherokee Street apartment at the end of August and set out for a new start in Denver. - PHOTO BY DOYLE MURPHY
PHOTO BY DOYLE MURPHY
Domain left his Cherokee Street apartment at the end of August and set out for a new start in Denver.

Domain sold Techli in July. It was difficult, but he is happy to see it live on, even if it is without him. He says the sale gave him enough money to live off for about six months, which is a good feeling after grappling with medical debts that ultimately forced him to file for bankruptcy.

Newly unburdened, he visited Denver recently and liked what he saw. There are cranes everywhere, and entrepreneurs are pushing some exciting ideas.

He is not allowed to say much about his new job until his employer is ready to announce its new project, but he says he got it through a St. Louis connection.

"I'm going to keep rooting for the good parts" of St. Louis, he says, adding that maybe he'll be back one day. "It's definitely bittersweet. I had big plans for St. Louis, but c'est la vie. I guess I'll have big plans for Denver.

Editor's note: A previous version of this story stated incorrectly how much money Domain received in the sale of Techli. It was enough to sustain him for about six months, not a few years. We also erred in describing the TV station that aired Domain's debate with Neil Bruntrager. It was KETC. We regret the error.


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