William E. Kalenda, Jr.
In 1976, Bill Kalenda Jr realized that working just one job in the steel industry, wasn’t enough to support a family with 3 kids. A-1 Towing was born, with a 1962 GMC ¾ ton 4x4, and a home built wrecker. Timing couldn’t have been better as the infamous Blizzard of 1977 hit in January of 1977. With 30’ snow drifts, and impassable roads, clean up went on for weeks. Out gunned, but still determined, Bill saw the need updated equipment. While still working as a foreman in a steel fabrication facility, he purchased his first manufactured wrecker, a 1973 Chevy with a Holmes 480. Spending nights and weekends in his home garage he dismantled, rebuilt and painted it. When finished, he had taken it back to the garage he bought it from, and they refused to believe it was the same truck….till they saw the pictures. Making the decision to leave the steel industry, and with a new image, A-1 Towing was doing tows for the local car dealerships, as well as the local Sherriff department. It wasn’t long before A-1 Services was born, doing collision and mechanical services on both cars and trucks, up to tractor trailers. At its peak, A-1 Towing had 8 wreckers, a flatbed, and a service truck. A-1 Services had leased a shop encompassing enough room to house 4 tractor trailer combinations, in addition to 4 light truck service bays. In the late 80’s, A-1 faced a change in the industry, and found its largest customer to be bought out and shut down by its main competitor. Another large customer, having over 30 bucket trucks, had moved its entire operation to Rochester NY, and no longer needed PM and repair services. Motor Clubs were now taking over the dealer requested towing services, effectively eliminating the volume of towing A-1 was providing. In March of 1992, A-1 Towing and A-1 Services was closed, and left a void in Bill’s entire family. Bill went back to work in the steel industry, working as a draftsman. Bill’s eldest son Billy, continued working in the towing industry, as he couldn’t get it out of his blood. At one local firm he started as a light wrecker operator, and during the course of 12 years worked to the position of Operations Manager, even employing his younger brother Jeff, and sister Debbie. From 2004 to 2014, Billy continued at a couple other local towing companies, but his true desire was to reopen A-1 again one day. Sadly, Bill Kalenda Jr. passed on October 31, 2012, as did the dream of working together with his son. Although he did get to see the business name reopened in April of 2011, as A-1 Enterprises of WNY Inc., he never realized how much of an impact he had on his son.
Leaving his last employer in June of 2014, and capitalizing on an opportunity given to him by his experience in repairing trailers and fabrication, Billy ( now Bill ) quoted on a 50 ton trailer refurbishment, this despite not having a shop or place to work from. The customer was sold on the extra ideas that were put into the quote, and despite being $6000 over the next bidder, went with A-1 Enterprises of WNY Inc. Rebuilding the tri-axle bogie in his single car home garage, and plumbing the trailer behind a friends shop, the trailer was completely rebuilt, and completed on schedule.
With a new found motivation, Bill set out to continue the dream of bringing A-1 back to where it once was. Starting out by providing roadside service on tractor trailers out of his pickup truck, he soon realized he needed a location to work from. So he leased his first shop, with no working water, a roof that leaked, and lighting so dim that you needed a trouble light just to read a wiring diagram. Undaunted, he made the building repairs and continued pushing in new directions, and established a customer base. During one winter storm he needed a tractor trailer towed in for repairs. After calling 6 different towing companies, and being told by one that “ you don’t have any room there to work on trucks”, and another taking the repair job after being called by Bill to have it towed in the first place, the decision was made. A-1 would have its heavy wrecker by the following winter.
Today, A-1 Enterprises of WNY Inc. is located in Alden NY, and has a full service auto and truck shop, performing towing and roadside service on all vehicles from commercial mowers to tractor trailers. In addition we provide collision and rust repair as well as powder coating, welding and fabrication, rigging and hauling, Air Conditioning repair / recharging, and computer diagnostic. Priding ourselves on being the “problem solvers”, we treat every customer as though it is our last. Along with the enthusiasm you see, you will also get a detailed invoice on everything we do.
In Memory of William E. Kalenda, Jr.