Q&A with Girdwood Auto & Turnagain Towing
By Peter Erickson
Glacier City Gazette Intern
Girdwood: a beautiful place for outings, a terrible place for car trouble.
Until recently, anyone experiencing vehicle woes found themselves calling for a tow to Anchorage for often minor repairs. Today locals and highway commuters have another option, Girdwood Auto & Turnagain Towing. They are a mobile mechanic and towing company providing roadside assistance and tows on short notice for the Girdwood Valley area.
The Gazette sat down with co-owners Brian Holliman and Franklin Love to talk about their relatively new business, the inspiration behind it and their future plans.
GCG: Tell us about your business.
BH: We are a family run company wanting to provide needed services for our local community.
GCG: And what is your background in automotive work?
BH: Well pretty much since I was a kid I had a passion for cars. I spent a lot of time fixing them up with my grandpa and after a while I decided that I wanted to make a career of it. So I put myself through college where I started on the business side then moved to tech school for automotive and diesel technology. While I was in tech school, I actually worked as a dispatcher and part time road side assistance driver for a company, so that gave me the background on that side of the business.
FL: I started playing around with cars when I was 15, and I liked it, so I kept doing it. When I got my first car, it wasn’t running so that really pushed me forward there.
GCG: What inspired you two to start up this business?
BH: I had been laid off from my job on the slope when the oil fields took a turn. I didn’t really like working in the oil field anyway, so I decided that I no longer wanted anyone else to be in charge of my fate. I wanted every dollar that I made to be my hard earned dollar. I didn’t want to be making money for someone else while I took home pennies. So I started working on cars part time out of my wife’s SUV. After a while that took off, and I got certified and insured. Fast forward half a year, Frank and I are standing around a bonfire, and he says he wants to buy a tow truck.
FL: I had been working at the tram for like six years at that point, and we were at that bonfire talking about buying a tow truck. It started out kind of joking, but I finished out that season with the tram, put in my notice and after that we started looking around for a tow truck.
BH: Which is not easy in Alaska, we looked all over, ended up settling on the cheapest one we could find.
FL: Yeah and it wasn’t easy getting that thing road worthy. Lots of work put into it.
BH: But now it’s still the best truck we have, and we have 12 in total at our Anchorage lot.
GCG: So what’s it like working here in Girdwood?
BH: It’s exciting to be a business owner in a community that is full of business owners that are locals, watching my friends succeed, be it Marc with the Gazette or Jenny and Raleigh over at the Picnic Club or Chris and Connie at the Tourist Trap. They’ve all inspired me and helped me see that things are possible in this town, and that once you find a niche, not only will you be successful, you can continue being successful as long as you’re fair and good at what you do.
GCG: What’s it like working together as co-owners?
FL: When stuff hits the fan, and you want to pawn it off on upper management you can’t. The buck stops with you. We try to pawn it off onto each other, but we’re the ones responsible. We’re the one out there working on the truck until 6 in the morning, so we can get it off the road and back to the shop.
BH: We couldn’t have gotten better partners. Frank and I go off on each other from time to time, but not like what you would imagine. At the end of the day we’re family. His family is mine, and mine is his, and no matter how heated it gets at work, we know it’s fine. We’re still friends and still family.”
FL: Yeah, if it gets heated we can just go our separate ways, take 10 minutes, come back and move past it, and I think it’s great that we can work that way.
GCG: What are your business goals for the future?
BH: We want to continue to carry on with the automotive side. It’s just really hard with all our current challenges. We’re mobile mechanics, and that’s been kind of our downfall out here in Girdwood. There’s no property available right now. There’s only one place to zone an automotive shop, and that’s next to the Tesoro, and that’s not for sale. The only other place is the Industrial Park, and that’s not developed yet. We can’t get a shop or impound lot here until that property is developed, so were just kind of idling while we wait for Girdwood to expand to where we need it to be.
GCG: You want to build a facility in the Industrial Park?
BH: As soon as there’s land open, we need it. It’s not just a want. This company, from both the automotive repair and towing side, needs to have a space here in Girdwood. Girdwood is one of the only places capable of offering repair services to commuters on this stretch of the Seward Highway. Most of our calls are from people saying, ‘I’m broke down at the Tesoro, my alternators shot or my belt went out and I’m here,’ and their next closest chance is 30 miles out.
GCG: Any final thoughts?
BH: Whether its fire, police, construction workers or tow operators, if you see flashing lights on the side of the highway, please slow down and drive with caution. We’ve already had a few close calls. It’s a dangerous job working on that highway.
Girdwood Auto & Turnagain Towing
Open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week