After 19.5 years of service making sure Portland’s inebriated patrons made it home safely, Home Runners is completing its final call on Saturday, September 2. Founded and owned by Dan Furst, the beloved designated driver service is the only one of its kind in the area—instead of waiting for an Uber or driving under the influence, a call to Home Runners means both you and your car will make it home in one piece—and its conclusion leaves a gap in Portland’s growing nightlife scene.
The idea for Home Runners came to Furst after he read an article about a similar service (called Scooter Man) in London. He had recently dealt with a series of unfortunate events, including several late-night police pullovers on Route 1 and an evening out in the Old Port where his car got locked in a garage. “I taxied home, taxied back, and had to pay for overnight parking in the garage. It ended up costing me $130,” Furst recalls. “I was like, ‘There has to be a better way than this.’” He devised a plan to launch Home Runners, which would send one car to follow behind while another person drove the client home in their own vehicle. At its peak, Home Runners employed around 14 drivers.
While many locals found out about Home Runners by word of mouth, you may have heard the company’s radio ad or seen one of their posters in the bathroom of your favorite Portland pub. Clients run the gamut in terms of their vehicles: Furst has driven everything from high-end Maseratis, Corvettes, and Lamborghinis to a 1977 Ford Econoline van with no muffler. “Whether it’s because we’re in Portland or it’s just the kind of people that the business attracts, I’ve had a great time and developed so many friendships that span the years. I can’t say enough good things about my interactions with clients,” Furst says. The emergence of Uber and Lyft in the past few years took short rides away from Home Runners (think crossing the bridge to Mill Creek), but longer rides to Scarborough and Cumberland were still more affordable with Furst—and, of course, Uber won’t drive your car home.
“It’s still magical to me when the phone rings,” Furst says. “I’ve spent 20 years of my life doing this, watching it grow and evolve while I grow along with it. I’m just filled with gratitude. There are so many people who have been so generous with us and that’s really what kept it going.” He explains that it’s hard to even think about moving on when people still desire the service. To those folks, Furst has one message: “You’re smart enough to know you need another plan, whether it’s Uber or a taxi or finding someone else to drive you. Just don’t take chances, because you’re going to end up on the wrong side of it at some point.”
Furst plans to spend time in Bangor building a pyramid to accompany his geodesic dome, but he’s open to finding the right person to continue Home Runner’s niche service. If you’re looking for independence from a 9-5 desk job (and you have no realistic plans to put Uber out of business), visit the Home Runners Facebook page and send Furst a message.