Arguably the city’s oldest business, Euless B&B Wrecker Service is owned by a couple of folks who are devoted to their hometown and surrounding communities.
Andy and Debi Chesney can’t resist helping their favorite groups around Northeast Tarrant County, said former Euless Mayor Mary Lib Saleh.
“Andy is the kind of person who, if you need help, he’ll be there,” Saleh said. “He and his whole family donate to so many great causes.”
Debi Chesney, 63, whose father, Robert Baker, founded the business in 1954 in a garage at Texas 10 and Ector Drive, said she was amazed at the number of awards and letters of appreciation her husband has earned. When she responded to a recent request for documentation from the International Towing Hall of Fame in Chattanooga, Tenn., she put together more than 180 pages from Euless, Hurst, Bedford, Grapevine, Southlake and Colleyville recognizing Andy Chesney, 60, for his support of first responders.
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The Hall of Fame selection committee “said they had never had anyone send in as many as I sent in for Andy,” she said. “We just found out he’ll be inducted in September.”
Many of those awards are from the Euless Fire Department, said the department’s public education coordinator and fire investigator, Ken Rawlinson.
“We love the Chesneys,” Rawlinson said.
The Chesneys earn that love partly by hosting emergency response training programs involving police and firefighters as often as quarterly on their 10-acre property. With their help, Assistant Fire Chief Jeff Morris sets up such scenarios as multivehicle collisions, overturned tractor-trailer rigs and other mock disasters, Rawlinson said.
“Then, we’ll have the guys come out like it’s a real call,” he said. “It’s realistic training that we get for nothing. Andy Chesney donates his facility, materials, his crew. And this isn’t just a one-time deal. We’ll call him up whenever we need him and he’s yet to say no.”
Euless also conducts part of its Citizens Fire Academy class at B&B, putting civilian participants into bunker gear and letting them use the big tools to cut up some of the Chesneys’ wrecks.
Police and firefighters in any of the cities served by B&B are accustomed to the same treatment.
But the family’s favorite cause has always been Trinity High School, said Andy Chesney.
Debi Chesney was in Trinity’s first graduating class, in 1970; Andy followed her in 1974. Both of their kids — John Heilman, 42, and Holly Heilman Haven, 37 — graduated from Trinity, too.
In addition to advertising in the school’s football programs, B&B provides trucks and trailers to haul “two or three groups each year in the Homecoming parade,” Andy Chesney said.
They also annually sponsor a program called Every 15 Minutes, setting up wrecks on high school campuses to help the anti-drinking-and-driving project reach students with its message that someone in America is killed by a drunken driver every 15 minutes.
The all-day program is “a terrible but amazing thing to see,” Debi Chesney said.
One event that sets B&B apart in many minds is a tradition begun by its founder. Debi Chesney grew up working in her father’s business — even driving wreckers for him from the time she was 14 — and her best memories involve parties each spring that filled their home with people.
“My dad started them in the early ’60s,” she said. “He passed away in ’75 and the parties stopped.”
Debi Chesney had gotten married and moved to Sulphur Springs by then. But in 1977 she became single again and moved back to Euless. The next January she met Andy Chesney, and by April they were wed. In less than a decade she would be back in the wrecker business.
“When we bought the business from my sister in 1986, I told Andy that we had to start the barbecues again,” she said.
Now, just like Robert Baker did, each spring the Chesneys invite cops and firefighters from the cities they serve, as well as all the company’s civilian customers, for a party that runs from morning to midnight. It isn’t unheard of for up to 1,000 people to drop by to enjoy 1,500 pounds of smoked barbecue (53 briskets and plenty of sausages and chickens), libations, camaraderie, games and, as the sun sets, live music.
“They cook all night long the day before,” said Saleh, who has attended her share of B&B parties. “All women in family bake cookies.”
Debi Chesney said she and other family members do, indeed, bake 1,500 cookies for the event. They moved the business in 1996 to 1201 W. Euless Blvd., where there was room to expand and where they’ve watched that annual party grow.
“It’s not a public party,” Andy Chesney said. “But it’s one that tends to pull the community together. We used to have bounce houses, but those got too rough. Now we get a trailer equipped with a dozen or more video games. The kids really love that.”
Among those kids are the Chesneys’ grandchildren: Brittany Blythe, 21; Andi Leigh Haven, 14; and Parker Haven, 11.
The business had five trucks and a handful of employees when the Chesneys bought it. Today, they employ more than 40 people full time — including almost 30 drivers and more than a dozen dispatchers to handle the 24/7 operation. Two buildings have a combined 9,200 square feet under roof. They operate 35 trucks ranging from standard 1-ton wreckers to a humongous 75-ton rotator rig to half a dozen tractors pulling lowboy trailers.
The big rig can tow anything that rolls on the roads and is capable of uprighting derailed trains.
“We can handle anything — planes, trains and automobiles,” Andy said. “We have worked train derailments and planes that ran off runways.”
The lowboys have hauled special freight from huge generators to construction heavy equipment to a World War II-era tank.
“I went to Houston and picked up an Army tank and hauled it to Lawton, Okla.,” Andy said.
The TV show Extreme Home Makeover: Home Edition used the tank to demolish a house that was then replaced with a new one for a wounded warrior, Debi said. The show is known for rebuilding or extensively remodeling homes for deserving families with special needs.
“We got to ride in the tank while it smashed the old house,” Debi Chesney said.