A man with a van by David Steinberg of the NY Times

Trent Griffin-Braaf, a man with the van, started this year feeling more confident than ever. The transportation company he created to ferry guests from hotels in the Albany, N.Y., area to local attractions like the racetrack in Saratoga Springs was catching on.

But when the coronavirus shut down tourism, weddings and conferences, Mr. Griffin-Braaf’s passenger vans were idled, and his business was in jeopardy. “We were really in a rough place,” he said.

In the late summer, his company became a carrier for Amazon and shifted to e-commerce deliveries. His team of 70 drivers and other staff include immigrants from Africa and India, workers laid off from restaurants, a struggling nail-salon owner and recent college grads “just trying to figure it out” during the pandemic.

His drivers cover a 150-mile radius around Albany, including many rural areas where the number of Amazon shoppers is increasing, he said. “All you see around here is Amazon,” he said. “Come work for Amazon.”

Many of his drivers were earning 10 hours of overtime a week during the peak holiday season. “I feel blessed to be busy, because so many people aren’t right now,” he said.

Mr. Griffin-Braaf, 36, has not given up on passenger vans. He has started driving workers living in parts of Albany with limited public transportation to their jobs at distribution centers and other businesses far from bus lines.

On the weekends, he volunteers the vans to drive families to visit loved ones in upstate prisons. Mr. Griffin-Braaf, who served time in prison years ago, said that long term, he hoped to have tractor-trailers to move e-commerce packages across the country, and to offer van service in other “transportation deserts” around the state so people could get to work.

“I know how hard it is to get a job if you don’t have a car, and I have seen how hard it is when you don’t get visits in prison,” he said. “I have lived these things.”

There you have it, A Man with a van.

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