Bear Swamp Recovery
Most people can't work with their families because of all the yelling and stress. How do you handle it?
Poorly. (Laughs) Years of doing this has taught me some very valuable lessons. When I was in my 20s, my father and I used to argue and I would do very reactionary things like put my fist through doors, stomp around, and yell and scream. As I've gotten older, we still do it, but at the end of the day, we make sure that we have dinner and that everything's resolved because we only have each other. People would look at us like we're crazy when our veins were popping from screaming at 2 in the afternoon and then eating dinner and burping and belching at 6, having a good time! My father and I kind of came to an understanding. Before it was normal father-son rifts over who's right; now, it's all workable.
Why did you get into the recovery business?
For my son. It offered me an opportunity to be home with my son when he was awake. I would leave at nine or ten at night as he fell asleep and I would be coming home as he woke.
Do you ever wish the family business was, I don't know, selling shoes?
No. I don't know if I'd want to be in the construction biz either; we've been in that biz since the early 1900s. I'm happy, but in my youth I did want to be a multi-gazillionaire, but now I would just like to spend more time with my family. I think it was a good idea.
What's the weirdest/funniest thing that ever happened to you on a repo?
I had this repo in PA somewhere, it was pitch black and raining heavily, and it was for a brand-new sports car. This guy had the same name as a famous boxer, but I figured it wasn't the actual boxer. I didn't feel like getting out and hooking the car because of the downpour, so I knocked on the door and the guy who answered it came out, confused. Thankfully, it wasn't the boxer, just some short guy, so I wasn't worried. But then when I told him what I was doing there, he immediately started to bug out and picked up a baseball bat. I thought he was going to come after me, so I got outta the way. Instead, he ran past me and started smashing out every window on this brand new car. The cops came and everything. The funny part was that three weeks later, I still have the beat-up car in the [towing] yard and I get a call from the bank: they say the guy wants to redeem his car... as is. He was a piece of work.
The best one, though, may be when we had to yank these garbage trucks at 2am from a garbage company with rumored mob connections... but we did it. The side effect was that the garbage trucks were full of garbage... and they sat in my yard for three weeks in the dead of summer, festering.
Have you ever felt so bad about taking someone's car that you gave it back?
Yes. I had a lady who had five children. Her ex-husband had a very successful business in Camden, the car had been out for repo for a long time. It took me weeks to find the car – it turns out she'd hid it behind the house. When I hooked it up, she was bawling, the kids were following her and she had a court order saying her ex-husband had to pay for the car and the house but she was still going to lose both. I knew he was responsible, too, because I went to his place first to find the car and he was living high on the hog with a young girl. So I gave the ex-wife $300 bucks before I left to feed the kids and she wrote me a letter five years ago to thank me.
We did give one back to a guy who had a cancer. We went to the finance company and worked a deal with the bank so that it wouldn't get towed.
What do you think about Tiny's chances if he's running the show one day?
I would prefer Tiny undertake another business. If he wants to do this, that's a different story. There's always going to be a need for repossession agents, but I don't think we're ever going to run into an economy like we had from 2003 to 2009, where credit was available to just about anybody. You could compare this time to the Roaring Twenties – but you didn't see the recession improve until the 1950s, so it's going to be a long way [from now]. If he wants to do something with his college diploma within the family, we'll find something to sustain him for the next 20 years. As a family.
What's the biggest towing job you've ever had at Bear Swamp? The garbage trucks?
Hell no. We did an excavator repo, 150,000 pounds. That beast had to be broken down.
Your favorite saying is apparently Fanabala! What does that mean?
It just means "Oh my God," something like that. My normal favorite saying is "You stupid mother******." I often call people mutts, which is a lot more appropriate for TV.
Can you give us the secret recipe for your legendary Summer Seafood Chowder?
Not a ******* prayer. (Laugh) On a cooking show, sure, I'll tell the audience. But I will tell you it starts with bacon.