By Barbara Scott
“It was Jan. 27, 1976,” said Milo Haney, 59, “I took the plywood off the windows of that building and since it was 25-30 degrees below zero, everything was frozen.”
Aroostook Republican photo/Barb Scott
Like father, like sons — current owner of C & J Service Center Milo Jr. and John stand with their father, Milo Haney, who originally started the establishment 35 years ago.
“I had $58 dollars in my pocket and the local banks I had gone to refused to consider a business loan — it was too risky to open up a service station at the West Gate (entrance to Loring Air Force Base),” said Haney. “I also spoke to the SBA and was told to go to the two largest banks in town and get a refusal letter from them, when I told the bankers what I was looking for, they immediately wanted to give me $6,000 — I told them I only wanted a loan for $5,200.”
“Mickey Carter owned the building and was asking $2,500,” recall Haney, “I asked about the possibility of renting and he agreed and he also worked with me to be able to receive small loads of gas at first until I could prove to him I would immediately pay off the cost of that gas from my sales.”
“The building wasn’t in very good shape but I did what I needed to do to get going — I didn’t have any money to pay anyone to work with me so for the next two years, my wife Priscilla and I worked the business alone, she helped when she could but I was there working from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. seven days a week.”
“After 90 days in business,” said Haney, “I knew I needed a wrecker vehicle so I walked into the bank again, this time with $110,000 in my account — getting a loan that time was no problem at all.”
“I still refused to go too deep into debt so I built my own wrecker and now 35 years later, that same wrecker boom is being used — of course it isn’t attached to the same vehicle, but it is still in operation and we offer 24-hour wrecker service ever since it was first built.”
Within two years of opening what was originally established as Milo’s Service Center, he purchased the building and was able to hire employees but he continued to work the long hours required by a gas/store and wrecker service. “With the base so close by it wasn’t unusual for get called out there 8-10 times a night. One day we hauled 55 vehicles in from the base and every day we would go out there to either boost an airman’s car or unlock it. Two years ago with five trucks on the road we serviced or hauled 40 to 50 vehicles,” recalled Haney.
“The base closure barely affected my business,” stated Haney, “the gas on base was cheaper than what I could sell it for and when the commissary closed, my volume actually increased.”
After 25 years of running the successful business, due to some health issues, Haney turned the business over to his sons, Milo Jr., and Johnathan, but he continues to work side-by-side with them. “Only not so many hours,” he said.
Today, the business is called C&J Service Center, and Haney and his sons continue to provide the same services as before except on an even busier schedule. “The wrecker service contracts with 8-10 towing companies and the Haney’s find themselves on the road statewide and well into other New England states. “They call — we haul,” said Haney. When Haney first went into business, for years, towing a vehicle from Presque Isle was considered long distance.
As in all businesses there are times when important decisions must be faced. “After 34 years of being a Mobile gas dealer, I was informed that in order to continue selling this product my building was going to have to undergo a $150,000-plus facelift or I had to take their sign down. We now are an APEX dealer.”
After 35 years in business Haney stated, “Nothing comed easy, but I have to say that it’s been a good 35 years, I’ve had very few problems with the public, people are good. We continue to have repeat customers, some as long as we’ve been in business — it’s been very rewarding.”
C&J Service Center store business hours include: Monday-Friday, 5:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturday from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sundays from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. The wrecker services remain 24 hours, seven days a week For more information call 328-7645.