BY GABE LICHT
LORETTO, MN In 2006, Justin Cook answered an ad looking for tow truck drivers for Burda’s Towing in Rogers.
“I had never been in a tow truck,” Cook said. “(Owner) Lance (Burda) taught me everything you could know.”
“He didn’t come with any bad habits,” Burda added.
Fast-forward 10 years, and Cook is now operating Burda’s Towing out of the former Loretto Towing & Mothers Motors location at 4775 Co. Rd. 19, after purchasing it from Ron Converse in October.
Cook grew up in the area, with his dad living on Lake Sarah, and his mom living in Maple Plain.
“I like being out here versus being in the city,” Cook said. “The customers are more personable because of the small-town feel.”
Burda and his wife, Layla, started Burda’s Towing in 2002 in Rogers with just one truck. Now, the company has 17 employees and 16 trucks operating out of Rogers, Monticello, and Loretto.
“It was in the process of closing, and he wanted everything sold off. We started getting calls from police agencies in the area. It was a sign to come up here,” Burda said.
The decision for Cook to operate the Loretto location was an easy one for Burda.
“To have guys we can trust is our first and foremost priority,” Burda said. “He’s kind of on his own out here, so we put a lot of faith in him that he’s out on the streets and meeting customers and potential customers.”
“That’s my favorite part,” Cook said.
For example, Cook has met Nick Oeffling, who had a heart attack while drinking coffee at the local shop Nov. 10, 2014.
“Nick’s family used to own this property and his house was here,” Cook said. “Hearing stories from local guys is fun. We want them to know we enjoy this city as much as they do.”
One way to do that is to improve the look of the facility.
“It’s almost warm enough to start painting,” Burda said Thursday. “We want to clean it up and let people know we’re here to stay.”
Burda said his company is getting more established in Loretto every day, which is a priority.
“We’re looking forward to being a part of the community,” Burda said. “We’ve worked with the Loretto Fire Department and Rockford Fire Department. In the future, we’ll be working with the Maple Plain and Delano fire departments. We like to work with those guys. It’s nice to know them on a first-name basis.”
One way Burda’s Towing works with local fire departments is clearing crashes.
“We have a lot of people and equipment to handle large crashes,” Burda said. “We have a big crane truck that speeds up the time we’re out there. We put a lot of effort into keeping the roads open. We don’t just do it for the people who hire us, but also the people sitting in traffic.”
While some towing companies focus on dealing with standard cars, Burda said, “We’ve expanded into the strange and abnormal, especially with equipment like our track machine for places you don’t want to put a truck.”
He fondly refers to that vehicle as ERV, which stands for Extreme Recovery Vehicle.
“I had a neighbor named Erv who was cranky but useful, so I named it after him,” Burda said. “Having it here, there’s more work for it than at our other locations because of the trails and swamps. It’s gotten more work here in six months than in a year at the other locations.”
Regardless of what equipment he is using, Cook enjoys taking care of customers.
“I’m passionate about this job and I take care of everyone, whether they’re in town, coming in, or going out of town . . . We want to make sure people know we’re here and we will be here for a long time.”