|Jim Schlier with one of his company's largest towing and recover trucks at the Tannersville center of Schlier's Towing. He started a home-based business in 1975, and now owns a towing company with 50 trucks, 46 employees and six locations.|
By Wayne Witkowski
Jim Schlier started his towing business with his parents at a small garage at their Reeders home shortly after graduating from Pocono Mountain High School in 1975, never realizing then that it would grow to 50 trucks at six locations and 46 employees.
"I had a body shop and we needed to get (cars from) accidents. One fed the other," said Schlier.
On Saturday, he was one of eight 2010 inductees in the International Towing and Recovery Hall of Fame in Chatanooga, Tenn., the only inductee this year from Pennsylvania.
"It's quite an honor," said Schlier, who also is a member of the museum. "It's probably a little overwhelming. I look at people I've known and admired who were inducted 15 years ago."
An original founder and lifetime member of the Pennsylvania Towing Association who served as its first president in 1987, Schlier is a lifetime member. He operates locations in Tannersville, Stroudsburg, Gouldsboro, White Haven, Hickory Run and Lehighton. He operates a light-, medium- and heavy-duty towing and recovery company, utilizing 60 pieces of equipment in 24-hour service.
Schlier also does auto and truck repairs and says his is the only company in the region that uses air cushions to lift overturned tankers.
The hall of fame, which had its first induction in 1986, each year recognizes those "who have made a difference," not only in business but in their community and in people's lives. His company has sponsored many Little League teams and he has volunteered helping the Pocono Township Fire Company fundraisers. He was named Citizen of the Year by the Tannersville Lions in 2006.
Schlier is the fourth inductee from the Keystone State, joining Harold Wheeler, Charlie Beard and Pat Herring.
"Without good employees and customers, it doesn't matter. We've had a lot of good customers over the years," said Schlier proudly.
And repeat car owners and truckers need servicing, Schlier said, as his business on the truck side remains solid since a major trucking hub in Bartonsville was closed.
"With PennDOT's stringent rules, there are less truck repairs because equipment is not as old as it used to be," he said. "It has to be in good condition. You may see some truckers or companies two times a year, but it's every year for 20 years."
Certainly, towing is a major part of his business and is not without its quirks.
He has been involved with removing many disabled vehicles from crashes, some of them fatal that included one recently at Schafers Schoolhouse Road in Stroudsburg. With certification in hazardous materials, he recovered a rollover tanker that spilled ammonia hydroxide in Wind Gap a few years ago.
He also remembers his company helping remove the body of an obese man from his home for the funeral.
"He must've weighed around 1,000 pounds, poor guy," recalled Schlier. "Firemen had to cut out his home so we could take him."
Schlier's reach goes well beyond northeast Pennsylvania. He recalls making frequent trips to New England to bring back disabled trucks when Roadway had a terminal in the area. "We'd go up there all the time," he said.
Schlier also remembers a double-decker bus stranded in Phillipsburg, N.J., that his company transported to El Paso, Texas, about 20 years ago.
The busiest time of the year?
"When it's either very hot or very cold, when there are a lot of people in the Poconos, " he said, referring to the summer tourism and winter ski seasons. "But even the icy roads are not as bad as the summer. Sometimes even we can't get out when it's really bad for a tow."
But the economy also pushed Schlier into re-evaluating and rightsizing his business, which at one time in recent years had as many as nine locations.
Certainly, when he arrives on the scene, he is a welcome sight to some people looking for help.
"People are at their worst when dealing with us: accidents, arrests, (stranded on) vacation, breakdown. People are not happy when you get there," he said.
Along with the excitement of his induction, his wife, Linda, has heard from CNN, which is scheduling a mid-October visit to the Candle Shoppe of the Poconos in Swiftwater that she owns for a shoot of its museum and haunted house. Earlier, the store was featured on a segment of "The Haunted" on cable television network Animal Planet as being haunted by monkeys — allegedly past victims of medical experiments.
Schlier's Towing and Recovery can be reached at 570-629-0293.