It’s a scary thought — going in the ditch in the middle of the night when roads are icy, it’s cold, it’s dark and everybody seems to be sleeping.
But now there’s one more guy willing to answer the phone, get up and come out to help.
Dan “Scruff” Johnson recently opened up his own towing company called Anytime Towing and Repair.
Although the business — located a couple of miles north on Richwood Road — is new, Johnson is anything but a beginner in the field.
Graduating from the auto mechanics program at Detroit Lakes High School, his service to the community began right away.
“I started out working at Skogen’s Standard gas station when I was 18,” said Johnson, who began learning the ropes on repair and towing from the station’s owner, Kermit Skogen.
“Kermit taught me that it’s not just pulling somebody out,” said Johnson of the towing service. “It’s helping people when they need help. That’s what I love about this job, is driving around, meeting people, and being able to help them.”
For eight years Johnson soaked in everything he could from Skogen, who according to Johnson, also instilled him the values of customer service, honesty and affordability.
When Skogen sold his business, Johnson stayed on under the new owner, Mike Johnson (who turned it into DL Towing) for another seven years.
During that time, Johnson partnered with his friend, Jon Mickelson, to branch out on their own and create what would become known as Chaney’s Auto Repair in the Industrial Park in Detroit Lakes.
For 17 years the two worked Chaney’s until 2007 when they took another chance together to start up Minnesota Metal Works, located right next to Anytime Towing.
But eventually both men would be pulled back to their roots —Michelson to start Chaney’s 2 repair shop a couple of years ago and now Johnson to start Anytime Towing.
Although he remembers the long, cold days and nights he spent pulling people out of the ditch during snow storms, it remains a warm memory for him.
“I actually miss it,” he said, “I like the tow truck; I like digging in the snow banks and helping people — it’s fun,” said Johnson, who says he doesn’t mind being on call seven days a week, 24-hours a day.
Although he also stays busy with his wife and two daughters, as well as church and his duties on the Lakes Area Young Life Committee, he will always have time to take the call from the person in need of his assistance.
“If I can get there, I’ll come,” said Johnson.
“As long as it’s not blizzarding and six feet of snow, my truck is four-wheel drive, and I can probably make it, so I’ll come.”
Johnson is now well equipped for different situations as well. He can help with keys that are locked in a vehicle, cars that won’t start and flat tires. He has both a flatbed truck for hauling the four-wheel drive vehicles that cannot be pulled by two wheels or for those that may have been significantly damaged, as well as the traditional tow truck that can pull a vehicle from the ditch.
Although doing impounds is the one aspect of his job Johnson doesn’t enjoy doing, he does have a well-lit, secured impound lot with 24-hour camera surveillance so that vehicle owners at least know their property will be safe during the process.
“Part of providing superior customer service is taking good care of the customer’s belongings, whether or not they intended to have their vehicle in the lot,” said Johnson.
Johnson charges a flat rate for towing and a tire change, with a one-way per-mile charge for out of town service.
Now with the snowflakes starting to fly, Johnson is just finishing up preparing his trucks for what is always a busy season on Minnesota roads.
Anytime Towing is located at 1608 Dan Street in Detroit Lakes, and can be reached by calling 218-847-3511. The number to the shop will roll over to Johnson’s personal cell phone for after-hours service.