The Auto Barn, Inc. was founded in the mid 1960’s by Mr. Earl Ward (Formally known as Mr. Earl). The Auto Barn originally was a maintenance repair shop with 2 locations in Baltimore and Hartfield, Virginia. Mr. Earl kept a close watch and took pride in good quality work, from dress and appearance to fender side covers on a car. His rules were easy to understand and everyone knew they were the rules you followed. At the age of 17 years old, Thomas Showalter (Tom) came to work for Mr. Earl at The Auto Barn. He was trained directly under Mr. Earl and was mentored from start to finish everyday. With a salary of $140.00 per week Tom could not refuse as his curiosity of the industry grew each day he worked here at the Auto Barn. He transported cars to the Virginia location, by way of tow truck or he would work on automobiles. He would do anything from oil changes and brakes to engine over hauls. Mr. Earl would train Tom and then Tom would mimic his trainer to ensure the job was done once and done right! Tom remembers what a hard week’s work with Mr. Earl meant. They would go on his boat and go fishing on Saturdays after work was completed, or possibly have a cook out. With Mr. Earls “Work hard play hard” mentality Tom was directly impacted by him and says that some of the reason he too has a high expectation is because of Mr. Earl’s influences.
Tom Purchases The Auto Barn Inc.
In 1987 Tom had a unique opportunity to purchase The Auto Barn and so he did! Some residents in the neighborhood remember him most for late nights in the shop listening to music, while hearing wrenches clink in the shop. Mr. Bernie Huster, owner of “Bernie’s Liquors”, recalls several nights were he would see Tom up late servicing his customers vehicles.
Tom’s finds his vision
Tom’s vision was simple he wanted to be able to be the only “One Stop Shop!’ In the Baltimore Area that would provide fair prices for his customers. Instead of the current mentality by his competitors who priced services at any price because they were the only company in town who provide the service. Since he was running a shop his customers depended on him to find a tow truck from time to time when they needed to get their vehicle to his shop. Tom would receive bills that were not consistent and almost always had unexplained high prices. He would think “I understand the high prices if I am getting high quality service but, there was no justification for such high prices with such poor services.” He decided to purchase his own tow truck and provide service to his customers directly. With his basic structure of : “Integrity first!” “Take Pride in all you do!” “Let’s set the standard and make the trends!” “Become a Fleet that can’t be Beat!” “It’s never the best; there is always something we can improve on.” “Team work” With this drive to succeed “The sky’s the limit!” Tom says.
Tom implements his vision
The first thing he did was create a pricing system that was fair, polite, courteous customer service, a good response time instead of making his customers wait, and ability to get a hold of an employee around the clock if you needed it. With this simple plan The Auto Barn grew and gained trust rather quickly among the local community. So much so he was able to expand with another tow truck in 1989. An International Rollback with an 18’ bed purchased from his friends, West End International.
Tom expands with Wreckers
Tom remembers this day with a smile as he begins to tell me with pride “I knew I was on to something!” So why not expand from automobiles to other facets in this industry. In just a short time he noticed that the same problem with overpricing and good customer service remained true in the big truck industry as well. With that knowledge in mind Tom purchased his first big wrecker in 2000. Now that he was flourishing with business and had customers who trusted him and his work, it was almost an eye opener for his customers to know that finally a business would put thier customers priorities at heart to make an even business relationship instead of a one sided one.
. Tom grows and begins mentoring and training
From the very first day Tom worked and then eventually owned The Auto Barn, he has always expected a high level of dedication from every employee. He trains his drivers and sends them to school for training to assure we are the foremost in this industry. It is said by every employee with a smile “Tom knows”. He is a constant water flow of information and knowledge in this industry. All of his employees have been impacted in some way by his daily interaction with them. Whether his employees have made mistakes or need to learn, Tom will grab a wrench to show you, if you’re in the shop or drive the Big wrecker. He will teach you efficient ways to better serve our customers.
What drives Tom?
Tom is a firm believer in his people and the example they set for this industry every single time they encounter his customers. He requires hard work from every one and rewards it constantly. He has always been driven by success and the rewards success brings to his family, employees, customers, and himself. Tom has a personal goal to make his mark on this earth and for people to respect him and the decisions he has made. I can tell you this, if his goal was to make a mark then marks you have made, sir. It’s the marks he will continue to make in the future that have us all anxious!
The Auto Barn, Inc. 2125 West Lafayette Ave. Baltimore, MD 21217 410-362-0117 (phone) 410-362-6415 (fax) Dispatch/Storage The Auto Barn, Inc. 2930 James Street Baltimore, MD 21230 410-646-2610 (phone) 410-646-2011 (fax) Main Office/Billing/Shop