WHERE IT ALL STARTED: Hard knocks and Hard Work
In 1952, at the young age of twelve, Chester Bambarger lost his father. As a result, Chester was forced to leave school as a sixth grader to help his mom run the family farm. Turning the hard knocks of life into motivation to improve himself, Chester later enrolled at Shelton State Community College and took courses in Auto Body Repair, Front End, and Frame Repair. After graduation, he began working for Tuscaloosa Chevrolet in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. He worked in their body shop using his technical training and operated wreckers for the dealership after hours at night and during the weekends. Chester was accustomed to hard work and long hours.
Chester operated a Chevrolet C-60 with a Holmes bed for the dealership and saw a clear need in the market for larger equipment. Chester knew this could be big for the dealership, so he went straight to the owner with his request for the larger wrecker. Chester’s request was rejected and he was advised he should buy his own large wrecker and start his own business.
On November 12, 1972, that is exactly what Chester Bambarger did; he bought three wreckers and rented out a section of the International Dealership in Tuscaloosa, Alabama to start his own business. Chester operated from this location until 1980 when the business was moved to its current location. The new location consisted of seven acres and he built a 70’ x 200’ building on the property located at 2700 35th Street in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. At this point, Chester expanded his services to include a front-end and frame shop, a body shop, and a larger fleet of wreckers ranging from light to heavy duty. He not only saw the need for larger equipment, he took the risk of starting his own business and securing the equipment to meet those needs.
WHERE IT GREW: Heart and Passion, Family and More Hard Work
Chester’s sons, Heath and Adam, both started working for their dad during the summer at the age of fifteen years old. Heath said, “I remember my first day; Dad gave me a shovel and a wheelbarrow and had me load gravel to fill pot holes on the yard. I asked Dad later that day, ‘Why can’t I just get the backhoe and fill these holes?’” Chester told his son, “This is a tough business; I want to make sure you have the heart and the passion to do the work.” Chester did not just have a vision for his business, he had a vision for his family’s future as well.
Not only did Chester Bambarger pride himself in taking care of his family and passing on a strong work ethic to his children, he was also active in supporting his community of fellow towers. Chester helped start the Alabama Towing and Recovery Association (ATRA) and served as the Vice- President for one year and as President for six years thereafter. Chester remained on the board of ATRA his entire career until his death in 2015. Heath said,” Dad told us to go to every meeting no matter where it is being held in Alabama. Learning one new thing at a meeting is well worth the time and the drive!” Chester was always looking for ways to improve his operation–“sharpening the saw,” and he felt the association meetings were an easy opportunity to learn new tactics to do that. He was always willing to operate his business with long hours yet be strategically involved in the leadership of his own state association. Along with work ethic and professional support, Chester continued to grow his business by networking with municipal authorities on both the local and state level performing tows whenever needed.
WHERE THEY ARE TODAY: Growth, Community, Legacy
In 1993, following high school graduation, Heath Bambarger began working full time for his father at the family business, Bambarger Wrecker Service. The father son duo was joined by Adam Bambarger in 1999, upon his high school graduation. As the growth of the business continued, in 2005, Heath and Adam felt equipment hauling would be key to their continued growth, so they bought Landoll trailers to meet the need both on a local and state level. This was a game changer and helped to generate growth beyond their expectations for the company. Chester’s sons saw the need, developed a plan, moved into action taking risks, and grew the business—the same thing their father had done.
Expanding into social media with the help of Billy Green has created image branding and growth on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Benefits are now offered helping attract key employees thus lowering the employee turnover rate. Safety meetings have been implemented once a month to reduce liability all while protecting the bottom line. Key equipment investments have been made to develop even more business growth as the Bambargers bought their first rotator on May 22, 2018. Another key marketing tool is all their trucks are kept clean and polished throughout the company as the truck is viewed as a mobile billboard. A professional appearance is emphasized because it shows a company that cares. The company reinforces to each driver that every tow matters. The Bambargers are active members in the ATRA for continued learning and support of their fellow towers in Alabama. Consequently, the size of the company has grown: Chester grew his business to a fleet of ten trucks whereas, Heath and Adam now have grown the business to a fleet of twentyfive tow trucks.
Through the years, Bambarger Wrecker Service has grown and developed a reputation for being one of the best towing services in the state of Alabama. Today, Chester Bambarger’s legacy lives on through his business which is currently the largest wrecker service in the city of Tuscaloosa and in West Alabama. Heath and Adam continue to run the company with the same integrity that their father had and strive to maintain the level of excellence that Bambarger Wrecker Service is known for. The business currently serves the entire Southeast region and beyond.
In conclusion, the Bambarger Wrecker story is not just a story about a man who grew a successful towing business. It is a story about a man who grew a successful towing business and then passed on the core values that made him successful to the next generation: heart and passion, hard work, initiative, risk, self-improvement, and support of professional community. Summed up best by Chester himself, “I want to make sure you have the heart and the passion to do the work.”