SALEM — The trolley war is over.
Boston-based CityView Trolley Tours — which set up business in 2007 in Salem, where Salem Trolley had been the lone operator for 25 years — is leaving town.
That puts an end to a business competition that, at its worst point, had escalated to shouting matches, aggressive driving and accusations of unfair business tactics.
"It's been great doing business in Salem, but it's just such a small sightseeing market for two companies," said Michael Thomas, owner of CityView. "Financially, it just didn't make sense to continue."
Instead, CityView launched a new trolley operation in Key West, Fla., last week, and sold some of its Salem assets to Salem Trolley, including its telephone number, Web address, pushcarts and some office equipment.
"We saw an opportunity to expand our market a little bit," David Butler, co-owner of Salem Trolley, said of the purchase. "Essentially, Salem Trolley was the only one in town for a number of years, and then they came in and it was tough for two companies to work in the same marketplace."
Neither business owner would reveal how much Salem Trolley paid CityView for the assets, but they said a decision was reached last week.
"We're excited to be able to serve Salem the way we always have," said Butler, of Danvers.
Salem Trolley, which opened in 1982, was the only operator in town until CityView moved in and ran competing trolley tours for three seasons.
"The trolley wars were very public," said Kate Fox, director of Destination Salem, the city's tourism office, "and so I do think it will be more peaceful — more peaceful at the Salem ferry landing and in front of the Visitor Center."
Already, the intense rivalry has dissipated.
"We hope to continue to work with them by directing customers from Boston up to Salem and so forth," Thomas said.
CityView's Salem Web site (salemtrolleytours.com) has been taken down, and the Salem service is removed from City-View's main site, which advertises sightseeing tours in Boston and Key West.
"Key West offers a year-round tourist market, so we did relocate some of our equipment to Key West," Thomas said. "It was a great opportunity, and the timing was right for us."
Thomas said the Salem market was never as profitable as CityView had anticipated, in part because it opened with the understanding it would be the only trolley service at the Salem ferry landing.
"We opened and invested up there from the invitation from Salem ferry, because the other company was not providing service at the Salem ferry," Thomas said. "Unfortunately, it didn't turn out the way we expected. ... when guests were getting off in Salem, because there were two trolleys and the business was being diluted."
Butler, who did not own Salem Trolley at the apex of the trolley wars, purchased the business last year.
"It was really vicious, and I was really upset when it happened," Butler said of the conflict.
Butler had previously owned Salem Trolley, which he bought from the original owners in 1998 and then sold it to Leah Schmidt in 2004. Last year, he bought the business back along with business partner Jim Hurrell, who also owns The Witch Dungeon Museum and other Salem attractions.
Salem Trolley operates four trolleys. It did not purchase any trolleys from CityView.
"The trolleys are a totally different color and a little different concept than our trolleys," said Butler, who also owns the Trolley Depot souvenir and gift shop.
CityView had already invested in advertising its Salem trolley service for this year, including an ad in the 2010 visitors guide.
"That's fine," Thomas said, "because the phone number advertised will be picked up by Salem Trolley company, and we don't feel we abandoned the city. The city is still going to get a quality trolley tour with our competitors up there."
Butler said CityView's departure from Salem will make his sightseeing operation easier.
"It's going to be a heck of a lot easier for our folks on the ground to provide good service than it was last year when there were folks (from the other company) right next to you," he said.
"I understand that both are businesses," Fox said, "and they were both trying to maximize their business. But I'm happy for the visitors that the public competition will not be detracting from the visitor experience in Salem."
Staff writer Amanda McGregor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.