Shop talk: Business owners, employees share stories

BEDFORD – Nearly 50 years ago, Clyde Ressler opened the business that today is Ressler’s Automotive & Towing.

Ressler’s business first started as a gas station and garage located at the turnpike interchange, he said. In 1969, it moved to its current location on Business Route 220.

The one-time Bedford Fire Department No. 1 Inc. fire chief, now a life member, and founding member of the Bedford Ambulance Service, ran the garage while his wife, Betty, oversaw the books and went out for parts when needed. Their sons, Barry and Terry, worked on weekends during school.

“There were some rough years. But we made a living,” Ressler said Tuesday morning sitting inside a room adjacent to the garage bays of the business his son, Barry, took over when he retired in 1989. “We raised four kids. All I ever wanted was a decent living, and that’s about all you get any place.”

But a decent living isn’t all the Resslers and their devoted employees have gotten over the years.

In the service business located in a prime location, Ressler ran into some celebrities along the way and they’ve all gotten everyday people out of some sticky situations.

“The group The Four Seasons, you ever hear of them? I rented Hertz cars, and they broke down and rented a Hertz car and they had it for a couple months. And Buddy Holly He was in our garage just not too long before he got killed,” Clyde Ressler said. “We just talked. Real nice guy. I really thought a lot of him.”

Cass Elliot, known as Mama Cass, of the Mamas and the Papas stopped for gas. Pirates announcer Bob Prince, The Ohio Express Band and Percy Sledge also made the list of encounters with the famous.

“They broke down and they had a performance in New York City the next day so they rented a Hertz truck from me and paid me to drive them to New York, because they couldn’t drive a truck,” Ressler said of the “When a Man Loves a Woman” singer and his bandmates.

In the early 1970s, Ressler’s started towing vehicles.

“As far as I know, I had the first roll-back [truck] in Bedford … and the first wheel lifts on the wreckers of all the garages around here,” Ressler said.

As a local and long-distance towing business, Ressler got to see quite a bit of the countryside, he said.

“Tow jobs, I’ve had them to Boston. Two to Indianapolis, Indiana, in one week. Canada. Chicago. North Carolina,” he said.

The business handles a couple hundred calls a month, Barry Ressler said.

“We’ve done a lot of things from retrieving vehicles out of ponds and rivers and trees … People lock children in the car,” he said.

Although certainly not the best part of the job, some of the accidents they’ve responded to are probably the most memorable, he said.

Barry Ressler remembered going out on a call for a pick-up truck washed away in a flood. He tried diving under the water to hook the pick-up to the tow truck, but he couldn’t stay under long enough to get the job done, he said. They called in a scuba diver, which they’ve done several times.

“The vehicles in there, you got to find a way to hook on to it to get it out, and you do whatever you have to do,” he said.

Barry Ressler said the image of the tow truck driver and the towing industry has changed over the years with the business having “really diversified and its become more of a profession,” he said.

The work is always changing, Shop Manager Mark Rose said.

“You never do the same thing twice. You may have 20 cars in the garage and 20 vehicles to tow. The next day you might have no cars and nothing to tow. You just never know,” he said.

Just like Rose never suspected he would reunite with classmate, Lisa Dawn Benner, in the early 1990s during a tow and marry her about two decades later on Dec. 12, 2012.

“It’s one of those jobs where you don’t know what you’re getting into. Every time you got out, every situation’s different,” tow truck driver Jeff Young said.

Clyde Ressler credits the employees, many of whom spent decades with the business, as one of the best aspects.

“So really they’re the ones who really made the business go,” he said.

Those employees are technicians Kevin Stickel, Rick Zelanko, Devin Scrianko, Chris Miller; General Manager Alton Miller; Shop Manager Mark Rose; Tow Truck Drivers Jeff Young, Charlie Foor and Tyler Miller; and Housekeeper Cathy Lang.

And one more – Miller brings his Great Dane, Annie, to work with him. He said the business is animal friendly.

“Our employees are the key to our success here,” Barry Ressler said. “It’s not me or my dad or anyone else. It’s the people who work for us.”

Mirror Staff Writer Amanda Gabeletto is at 949-7030.