Lewis’ Wrecker Service just celebrated its 60th birthday. Having spanned four generations, Lewis’ Wrecker Service continues as one of the oldest towing services in Louisiana. In June of 1956, the first generation of Lewis’ set out with one 1946 Tow Truck to build the foundation of what would be a long lasting business. Originally located on Airline Highway, it was not until 1959 that Mr. and Mrs. Finnon D. Lewis moved their business to its current location on Joor Road. In 1981, they retired and handed over the reigns to their son, Dennis and his wife, Eula. For the next thirty years, Dennis and Eula worked diligently to maintain their standing as one of the most respected towing services and businesses in Central and the surrounding areas.
Third generation, Michelle Lewis now manages the business with her mother, E.C. Lewis who is currently “retired.” Michelle officially took over the business nearly four years ago after losing her father to cancer. Since she was a little girl, Michelle was carefully trained in every facet of the business from keeping the books to working in the yard. She prides herself on maintaining the family name through attention to detail and dedicated customer service. “In 60 years, we still have a lot of the same customers that used my grandfather for towing 60 years ago, and if it’s not them, we have their children, grandchildren, and family,” Michelle said, “You keep your name clean, and you do the right stuff. My grandfather did that. My mom and dad did that. And that’s the way it goes now.”
As a child, Michelle felt more at home with her dad outside in the yard. “I was with him pulling cables, fetching tools, and helping him work on trucks and stuff,” she said, “My dad was the muscle.” As Michelle grew older, she began keeping books with her mother. “They always say that behind a <successful> man is a good woman,” Michelle said, “We wouldn’t be where we are if it wasn’t for my mom… My grandmother was the same way. These women are self-taught on how to run business.”
Armed with one such self-taught business acumen, a long standing reputation and a commitment to customer service, Michelle continues to run Lewis’ Wrecker Services with success. Though she noted that “renegade towing companies” often undercut legitimate towing companies, like her own, she insisted their commitment to excellence bypasses such cheap prices. “You get what you pay for,” she said, noting such companies usually skimp on their insurance and their inspections are not in order. “We keep our customers happy,” she said, “Word of mouth has been our absolute best advertisement.” According to Michelle, it is not enough to simply do the job required, but rather to go above and beyond the immediate demands to achieve the best and safest situation for those they serve. “We are here to perform a service, and we do it quite well.”
Lewis’ Wrecker Service also prides itself on its case by case approach. “It’s a very interesting business. It’s always something new every day,” Michelle said, stressing the importance of assessing each wreck as a unique case and taking care to fully understand the differences of each situation. “Everybody tries to make it textbook, but it doesn’t work that way,” she said, “A car is not going to wench out of a ditch the same way as the one before it.”
Michelle’s employees include her son, her fiancé, and her ex-husband. “My dad taught all three. They are the best of the best,” she said. Both her son and daughter graduated from Central High School as did she and her father before her. Though her daughter currently lives in Virginia, Michelle is confident in the fourth generation of Lewis’ Wrecker Service as her son intends to take over when she retires.
For Michelle, Lewis’ Wrecker Services is extremely personal, not only because of her family history, but also because of the investment in running her own business. “A lot of people feel that they can open it and the business can run itself,” she said, “but, it doesn’t work that way. You have to be very hands on. You have to be very attentive to your business. You have to commit.” The last time Michelle was away from work was December of 2014 for the birth of a grandchild.
With such unquestionable commitment, it is no surprise that Michelle prays for the continued success of her family’s business well into the future. “I want to see it continue to serve the public for another 60 years. I want to see it grow.” Though Lewis’ Wrecker Services attends to areas of Baton Rouge, Zachary, Baker, Denham Springs and Slaughter, it is Central that is most dear. “My grandparents were some of the ones that were here <Central> from the beginning,” Michelle said, “When I was a kid I could sit in the front yard and I could count on one hand how many cars passed on Joor Road, and now, it’s grown so much, and I’m proud of Central. I love Central. I’m in awe of what we have become. And, I’m proud to say I’ve been here to see it.”