Brian Hawkins, Jr. and owner Brian Hawkins, Sr. lean on one of Hawk’s Towing’s trucks. (Photo by Suzette J. Lucas.)

Hawk’s Towing goes from one-man operation to Parking Wars stardom

By Jessica Oates

Twenty-five years ago, Brian Hawkins had a tow truck and a dream.

The dream: to start his own business. So, a day after Hawkins graduated high school, he turned the dream into a reality. A quarter century later, Hawk’s Towing in Hamilton has grown into one of the largest in the area, with 18 trucks and full body and repair shops.

The business is fairly well known in the Hamilton area, but Hawkins never expected it to land him much fame. So imagine Hawkins’ surprise when producers from TV show Parking Wars called his shop out of the blue one day, asking if they could ride around with him and his son for an episode of their show dedicated to private towing.

“I watched Parking Wars anyway, so I knew what the show was about,” Hawkins said. “I thought it was great that they wanted to come to a private company. It was very exciting.”

Parking Wars is a “reality” series about parking enforcement that first aired on the A&E network in January 2008. The initial focus of Parking Wars was the Philadelphia Parking Authority, though later on the series began to follow employees of various private towing companies as well.

The show follows employees as they ticket and tow vehicles, and also documents any confrontations that might arise, which they inevitably do. Angry vehicle owners try to argue their ways out of heavy fines for unauthorized parking. Many episodes focus on how small issues like parking tickets can escalate into yelling matches, and how such conflicts are eventually resolved.

Hawkins says that the filming process was exciting for everyone at the shop. The best part was, it was all real, he said. No acting. As they filmed, the producers asked questions about the shop, and about the jobs Hawkins and staff were doing.

“They never asked us to do anything differently than we normally would,” he said.

In one example from the episode, Hawkins rushed back to the shop from a tow job to deal with a rude customer. The man was yelling at Hawkins’ wife, Cindy, demanding to see the owner. The man claimed that he was being unfairly charged for the towing and holding of his vehicle, but Hawkins and his wife calmed the man down.

The disgruntled customer eventually paid and left without the conflict escalating further. Hawkins said that situations like this are not uncommon. He said that when the show was being filmed, producers would ask him questions about how he deals with conflicts like that, and Hawkins said what they had seen was an accurate portrayal.

“It was a little weird at first, because you had to sort of narrate your job. You have to explain the little things you are doing that you might not normally think twice about,” he said. “You can’t just go, get the car, back up to it and leave, but I guess that’s what makes the show interesting to the viewer. They get a better understanding of how our job works.”

The job is a family effort. Cindy manages the office. Hawkins’ son, Brian Jr., recently obtained his driver’s license and is already driving trucks for his dad.

Having grown up around the shop, Brian Jr. says he knew he always wanted to join in the family business, and that’s just what he did when he graduated from Steinert High School last year.

“It’s a cool job,” he says. “I do everything by myself. A lot of kids want to grow up to be just like their dads when they are little, and that stuck with me.”

It’s a similar path to his father, who did mechanical work and drove a tow truck for another company while in high school. The elder Hawkins saved up enough money and was able to purchase his own truck the day after he graduated high school, beginning his own business. Prior to that, his family had not been involved in towing, though his father was a truck driver.

A proud member of the Hamilton community, Hawkins said people are always recognizing him and his family from the TV show. He said toll booth collector, a Parking Wars fan, stopped him for autographs when he pulled up to her booth, creating a buildup of cars behind him.

“The lady at the tollbooth started screaming because she recognized me,” Hawkins said. “She asked me to sign pieces of paper for her and her friends. People were honking their horns behind me, wondering what the holdup was.”