Amanda and Eric “Bubba” Johnson turned tragedy into opportunity 10 years ago when the first of two floods swept through Olive Hill and claimed four homes they owned in the Ben’s Run section along Tygart Creek.
“We lost those four houses and all that we had … We used the insurance money to start Bubba’s Towing & Recovery. We started with a rollback, a wrecker and a small service truck,” Johnson said, explaining they purchased an existing business, H&S Towing.
“We were nervous because there was competition. But, we felt there was a need for good service in a reasonable time frame.”
Despite the memorable new name, Bubba’s Towing & Recovery, did not become the “go to” service overnight.
“The first two years it was real depressing. Every day was a struggle to survive and keep the lights on,” said Carl Eric Johnson, who is known simply as “Bubba” to nearly everyone except his family.
While they still have not banked a fortune, the Johnsons have become one of Carter County’s most recognized brands – largely due to the high visibility of the T-Shirts bearing the company name and slogans “Hookin’ & Haulin” and “Best Hookers In Town” along with a slate of sponsor names, tossed out into the crowds by the hundreds along the parade route during the annual Olive Hill Homecoming.
That, and a lot of long hours and tough tasks, he said.
“There are no vacations and you can’t make plans. It can be frustrating. Sometimes you get in bed at midnight and get a call after only 2-3 hours sleep … But, that’s what you are there for. There’s no set hours or schedule. Amanda and my son, Gunner, both run trucks now.”
Those “free” T-Shirts Bubba’s team gives away each year are largely on his mind at the moment. As city leaders decide how to handle the 2020 Homecoming, Johnson has decided to move ahead with his plans to have a big batch printed up.
The team gave a few hundred away the first time, and increased that to 1,800 in 2019. He hopes to ramp that number up in 2020, although he needs sponsors to make it happen.
“We need 20 community sponsors,” he said, later confirming that he sees people wearing their Bubba’s shirt every day.
Laughing, he observed “I see a lot of my shirts in mug shots.”
You can find Bubba on Facebook or a phone, but not many other places.
“I don’t do radio and I don’t have any signs. I don’t even have a website,” he said with a hearty chuckle. “They can get me by calling 606-316-9161 – that’s 24 (hours a day) 7 (days a week) 365 (days a year).”
Story by TIM PRESTON
Photos by TIM PRESTON and JOHNSON FAMILY ARCHIVES
Carter County Post