Meet Your Merchant | Owner’s legacy lives on at Alpine Towing
November 13, 2013
When it comes to the towing business, Raluca Bogdan has learned pretty much everything she knows from Peter Lahner.
Raluca, a small blonde woman from Romania, has been with Alpine Towing since 2008 and has helped run the business since Lahner, its owner, died last October. Peter's wife and son own the business, while Raluca oversees operations.
Raluca said Peter taught her how to dispatch calls, talk to customers, promote customer service and run the towing business.
And she's continued to run the business, she said, the way Peter would.
“He was a very professional man but sure enough we got to be like family … he just became like a father to me.”
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"Peter trained me and taught me everything I know," Raluca said. "I take (the business) as his legacy and keep it up as he did."
A LONG HISTORY
Peter opened Alpine Towing and Auto Body Repair and Paint in Incline in the 1980s. In the recession of 2008, the shop closed, and Alpine Towing moved to its location at 924 Incline Way.
Although he no longer had the body shop, Peter never lost his love for cars.
"He had three or four Porsches," Raluca said. "He was so proud of being Hungarian, and he loved German cars."
Their shared Eastern European background gave them a lot to talk about, Raluca said, as Hungary and Romania have similar cuisines, and residents celebrate holidays similarly.
The two became close while working together at Alpine Towing.
"He was a very professional man, but sure enough, we got to be like family … he just became like a father to me," Raluca said.
She remembers her employer as being interested in his employees' lives — "he would always jump in to help," she said.
COVERING NORTH SHORE
In the summer, customers call Alpine Towing from everything from a lock out to a flat tire. In the winter, they call for a jump start or because they're stuck in the snow on the roadside.
In both emergency and non-emergency situations, customers who call AAA are dispatched to Alpine Towing. And with a team of four drivers, situations are taken care of quickly.
"We want the area to be covered at all times," Raluca said. "When it's slow, we catch up on truck maintenance."
Alpine Towing purchased two new trucks this past year, bringing the company's fleet to seven.
Driver Dave Fowlkes said Alpine Towing is the busiest "in winter when we get snow and in summer when we get tourists."
Before working at Alpine, Dave drove semis and limos, school buses and taxis. He came to the company, he said, not knowing how to tow and was taught by Peter and other drivers.
EVERY DAY IS DIFFERENT
Raluca and Dave said every day they are learning, as Alpine Towing continually presents new obstacles and challenges.
"You can't learn everything in one day because you don't see everything in one day," Dave said, referring to the variety of calls he receives.
Besides learning towing, Dave said he also has learned how to talk to people.
"A lot of this stuff you can't just learn," he said. "You have to just find out about it during the course of business."
Raluca said she is continually learning all the changes brought on by technology.
"People have a different way of communicating," she said. "It's not the old school way of calling the drivers, it's all on the computer. It's amazing."
With the change in dispatching and text message alerts sent by AAA, Alpine Towing holds to its same mission.
"Keep calm, respond to calls in a timely manner and be safe — that's the main goal," Raluca said.
Jenny Luna is a freelance reporter for the North Lake Tahoe Bonanza and Sierra Sun newspapers. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What: Alpine Towing
Location: 924 Incline Way, Incline Village