The concept of the American Automobile Association not only offering tows to motorists stranded along the road, but also helping them get back on the road originated in central Ohio.
What started out as a means of filling a gap has grown into a profitable side business with facilities throughout the United States and in Canada, according to Mark Boyer, director of Car Care Plus for the Ohio Auto Club.
Boyer helped preside over the grand opening last week of the latest local Car Care Plus in an extensively renovated former R.J. Wheels operation at 1335 Bethel Road.
As the old service stations that offered wreckers and repairs as well as gas and oil began to give way to convenience stores with pumps, AAA officials in central Ohio sought to fill the gap.
"Around 1991 we purchased our own emergency road Service fleet consisting of four wreckers and two light service vehicles and needed a place to park, service and repair them," Boyer wrote in an email.
"The company leased an old car dealership on King Avenue and Northstar in Grandview," he said.
"It started out with the repair of the fleet and evolved into a full-blown automotive repair facility for our members.
"As business grew and market research identified that our members wanted a place to get their vehicles repaired it was obvious that this could be another benefit we could provide," Boyer said.
"We were the first AAA to have a club-owned repair in the U.S. and Canada.
"Now there are 120 AAA-owned facilities in the U.S. and Canada and at least one a month planned to open the rest of the year."
"It's just booming," Boyer said in an interview. "It evolved over the years.
"It wasn't right away," he added. "We were kind of out there by ourselves."
The Bethel Road facility, which had grand opening ceremonies Feb. 20 featuring free emergency roadside kits for the first 50 guests to arrive, brings to five the total number of Car Care Plus locations in the Columbus area.
The Northwest Side has two, the other one being at 6850 Sawmill Road.
It is a result, Boyer said, of residents in the area embracing the concept and the number of AAA members present.
"The numbers do support both facilities," he said.
The other Car Care Plus centers are in the Grandview area, Berwick and Polaris.
"AAA Ohio Auto Club purchased the space for this most recent facility and its Columbus Northeast facility from R.J. Wheels in August 2012 and renovated them to better fit the community's needs," public relations manager Kimberly Schwind wrote in announcing the grand opening.
The Columbus Northeast location on Sancus Boulevard in the Polaris area, she added, was renovated into a "Supercenter," featuring not only a Car Care Plus services but also a AAA store for travel, membership and insurance.