Break It Down Towing 100 Percent Orange Mound
Published on: March 17, 2015
Don Wade, Memphis Daily News
His company is Break It Down Towing, but Antonio Anderson’s home team is, and has always been, Orange Mound.
So on a dreary day in early March, he is wearing the uniform that tells all where his heart is. His gray and orange hoodie reads “100 Percent Orange Mound.” His stocking cap also bears the words “Orange Mound.”
Still, no kid first dreams of staying where he was raised and owning his own tow truck business. Back in the day, there was no reality TV show about towing.
So Anderson, now 45, was no different than a lot of kids growing up in Memphis. He believed the path to a better life was the one where you drive to the basket and dunk.
“As a kid, I was pretty sure I was gonna be in the NBA,” Anderson said.
But he also knew older guys who had tow trucks and had a found a way to make a living. So if he didn’t become the next Michael Jordan, maybe he’d try that.
Of course, it took him a while to come around to that notion. After graduating from Melrose High School, he played basketball for two years at Motlow State Community College. But that’s where the pro basketball dreams ended.
He returned home and became a workingman. There was a warehouse job and then an auto parts store job.
“They were good jobs, especially AutoZone,” Anderson said. “It gave me the opportunity to meet all genres of people, helped me a lot.”
He admits it was a little scary to make the leap to starting his own business, which he did 17 years ago by purchasing a used tow truck for $3,500. For the first 10 years, Break It Down Towing also could have been known as AA Towing because Antonio Anderson did it all.
“I was the guy that went it and did the towing, I was the secretary, the mechanic, the bookkeeper, everything,” he said.
The economy has, like some of Anderson’s clients, ended up in the ditch at various points in his 17 years in the business. He has avoided any real low points even during the worst of economic times.
“Three words: faith, persistence, perseverance. That’s the key in any business, really,” he said. “You gotta believe in it and endure. I just stayed with what I could afford.”
As time has gone on, the business has grown and Anderson is considering a second location in Whitehaven. The business’s growth in Orange Mound came the old-fashioned way.
“I built the company by word of mouth. The Internet helped me later,” he said. “If it wasn’t for my neighborhood, people that knew me, the business wouldn’t have grown.”
Anderson tries to support other small businesses in Orange Mound.
“I just wish the government would realize that small businesses make big businesses and make it so it’s not so hard to get loans,” he said. “In the beginning I really wasn’t in debt because I did the bulk of the work myself. But later I had to get more tow trucks.”
And when the recession hit, banks became even more wary of giving loans to small businesses.
“Banks just locked down,” he said, adding that he was refused a loan many times.
That changed recently, however, when Financial Federal gave him a loan to buy a new tow truck.
“They saw something in me and the company,” he said. “I appreciate them dearly, allowing me to purchase the new truck. It took me to a whole other level in the towing industry. I can now tow a 30,000- to 40,000-pound truck.”
Anderson is married and has six children, two from a previous marriage and four with his current wife. Last year, he took one of his daughters to the University of Houston and stayed a couple of extra days.
It’s the closest thing to a vacation he’s ever had.
But no regrets. He’s active in the Orange Mound community, talks to kids at Melrose and serves as an example of another path to a good life. Friends sometimes tell him they would like to trade places.
“I have guys tell me all the time they wish they had their own business, but they don’t see all the ins and outs,” he said. “I tell them I wish I had a job and got a paycheck at the end of the week. But I wouldn’t change it. I love owning my own business.”