WAYNESBORO — Most of us wish we could spend more time with family. But to do that usually means spending less time at work — an option most people don't have. But, for the Drumhellers, family is who they have worked with for 50 years.
The first day of business for Drumheller’s Towing & Recovery was April 26, 1967.
“Ray and I have been married 58 years and we’ve been in business 50 of those years,” Mary Alice Drumheller said. The couple has four children, 11 grandchildren and 6 great-grandchildren. “And a lot of them are involved in the business.”
The Drumhellers and their four children, two of whom are in the business with them, grew up in Waynesboro. Daughter Sharon Morland is the company’s general manager and son Robbie Drumheller is the safety and training manager.
Ray and Mary Alice Drumheller started the business at the intersection of Tinkling Spring Road and Jefferson Highway in Fishersville where the Subway and Fishersville Corner Market are today.
Ray Drumheller said his son, Robbie, was 2 years old when he left Dupont to join his uncle in the trucking business.
“We always talked about getting into the trucking business [together],” Ray Drumheller said. His uncle got out of the business many years ago and died in January 2016. Ray Drumheller said he grew up always involved in mechanics and automobiles, and he did not like working in a factory every day.
In the beginning, Mary Alice Drumheller helped with bookkeeping and answering phone calls.
“I had to beg her to come work at the [Exxon] station,” Ray Drumheller joked.
After several more relocations, the business was in Fishersville offering only towing services in 2007.
Then Drumheller’s Towing was at the corner of Rosser Avenue and W. Main Street in Waynesboro. Morland said they had 8 trucks and 10 employees. When the family sold that property, which is now a Rite Aid Pharmacy, Morland said the plan was to stay open for five years in a new location until her parents retired.
But then AAA called and wanted the family to take over the Charlottesville area of their member calls.
“Business got too good,” Ray Drumheller said about why he and his wife changed their minds about retiring.
Mary Alice Drumheller said the business grew fast and “got too good to leave it and it has grown every year.”
Now Drumheller’s Towing has 20 trucks and 25 employees, and serves AAA members in Staunton, Waynesboro, Augusta County, Charlottesville and Harrisonburg. The company has been on 4 ½ acres at 1620 New Hope Road in Waynesboro for four years.
“When I hire somebody now, I tell them this isn’t a job, it’s a lifestyle,” Morland said. Her daughter-in-law handles the books for Drumheller’s Towing and her grandchildren also help out. Robbie Drumheller’s children are also involved in the business.
The company is open and receives calls 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Dispatchers answer the phone during the day, and from 10 p.m. to 8 a.m. Mary Alice Drumheller answers the phones just as she did in the company’s early days.
“It’s a lot. That’s why it takes so many employees and trucks,” Morland said.
Mary Alice Drumheller said the company handles an average of 80 calls per day. According to Morland, the most calls handled and responded to in one day was 141.
“Waynesboro means a lot [to us] because we spent almost 20 years where Rite Aid currently is,” Morland, who lives in Grottoes, said.
Ray Drumheller said that what stands out for him in the last 50 years of business is the people that he has met. He misses when the family’s business was at an Exxon station [where the Subway is now in Fishersville] and he got to talk to people as he pumped their gas.
“It doesn’t matter where you go, people know who you are,” Mary Alice Drumheller said of the last 50 years.
More than 400 people attended the family’s celebration of 50 years in business at Augusta Expo on the 4 th of July.
“I hate it, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything else,” Robbie Drumheller, who lives in Fishersville, said of working with his family all these years.
Robbie got involved with his parents’ business when he was 13 or 14 years old and he started pumping gas for customers. He began helping with the company’s trucks when he was 16 years old. At age 8, Robbie won a state children’s competition for recovering a wrecked vehicle and hitching it to a tow truck.
“We can handle anything now as far as recovery work,” Robbie Drumheller said.
The safety of the company’s tow truck drivers, especially on I-64 and I-81, is very important. Ray Drumheller added that a tow truck driver died July 9 in Baltimore.
“More tow truck drivers are killed out on the highway now than police officers or EMT,” Mary Alice Drumheller said. “Safety is very important.”
What about the future of Drumheller’s Towing?
Ray and Mary Alice Drumheller live in Waynesboro and are not planning to retire anytime soon. They said they are unsure if they will pass the business to Morland and Robbie Drumheller.
“It will be there for them if they decide that’s what they want to do,” Mary Alice Drumheller said.
Ray Drumheller said that he is proud the business has been around for 50 years.
“God has been good. I’m just amazed at the business we have now,” Ray Drumheller said.