When Tony Alfano started working at George’s Garage & Towing in Cranbury in 1996, he was engaged to Nicole Nobile, the owner’s daughter. Alfano vividly remembers what George Nobile told him back then.
“He took me under his wing and said, ‘here’s the deal, when we’re at work, you’re my employee, and I’m your boss. At home, of course, it’s different. If that’s a problem, here’s the door.’ We put our noses to the ground and worked very hard at running the business.”
George Nobile was only 64 when he passed away in 2009 as a result of heart problems. He left the business he started in 1968 to the next generation, which includes his son-in-law, daughter and son James (Jimmy) Nobile, who is stationed in Connecticut with the U.S. Navy and comes down on weekends to help out with the family business.
Alfano says George Nobile taught him everything he knows about the business and also a lot about life in general.
“We had a similar work ethic that went together very well,” said Alfano. “To this day I haven’t had a sick day in my life. George was not at all about chasing the dollar; it was about doing great work and serving the customer. George and I understood each other. I believe he was teaching me. I didn’t know what his plan was then, but I believe he was grooming me to take over the business some day. If not for his training, I don’t think we would be here today. My wife, Jimmy and me pulling together, giving everything we have, we’ve been able to keep this business going and growing it through new relationships.”
That work ethic and roll-up-the-sleeves, can-do attitude has made George’s one of the most successful family-owned businesses in the area, with towing contracts for local municipalities including Cranbury, East Windsor, Hightstown, Plainsboro and South Brunswick. George’s Garage & Towing has a contract with the New Jersey Turnpike Authority, one of two local companies that respond to calls for mechanical problems, disabled vehicles and accidents on the turnpike from Exits 7 to 9. George’s Garage is also a New Jersey state motor vehicle inspection station.
“It’s a big ship to run,” said Alfano. “We have 11 employees and 16 tow trucks and it never stops. I have three cell phones but I love it; I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”
The garage is open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week. The towing part of the business runs 24 hours with two towing shifts to keep things flowing smoothly. Alfano says it’s not the kind of business you can ever shut down.
“Even on the day of George’s funeral, we technically didn’t close,” said Alfano. “George was proud about not missing calls, not missing work, and that’s the ethic I’ve kept. We had a tow truck processional for him, all of ours and 45 others, and the police and emergency vehicles closed parts of Main Street in Cranbury and Route 130 for a while. We paused when we passed in front of the garage. George would have eaten that up.”
Alfano says he and his wife have worked out a good division of labor and responsibilities, which keeps both their business and their home running smoothly, like a well-oiled machine, kind of like the vehicles they fix and maintain.
“Nicole runs the office and I run the operations,” said Alfano. “I enjoy working with my wife. We have a good way of communicating. Some couples can work together and others can’t. This has brought us closer, even with Jimmy. He’s the closest thing to a brother I’ve got.”
Nicole Alfano and her brother grew up in Cranbury and they maintain strong ties to the community, even though she and husband now make their home in East Windsor. The Alfanos are big on pitching in with community events, especially with local sports teams.
“We’ve sponsored kids teams, police athletic teams, stuff like that,” said Tony Alfano. “We like to help them out and give back; it makes the world go round. It’s our community so we like to do what we can.”
Alfano is proud of the personal stamp he has helped put on the business in recent years. “We acquired the East Windsor municipal contract just this year,” he said. “We’ve computerized the business, changed the towing shifts and added drivers. We’ve also cleaned up and improved the field behind the garage, something George always wanted to do but never got around to doing.”
Alfano says the nature of the business is such that he never really shuts it off, though he and his wife do try to go home and have a life. And what does he do in his spare time at home?
“I have a Corvette, a Mustang and an old Torino,” said Alfano. “I like to work on my cars to relax. It’s my passion.”