Francis James Fronrath, left, stands at the original Sunoco Gas Station owned by the Fronrath family, which stood at the corner of Utica Road and Gratiot Avenue in 1949.

Francis James Fronrath, left, stands at the original Sunoco Gas Station owned by the Fronrath family, which stood at the corner of Utica Road and Gratiot Avenue in 1949.

Photo provided by Liz Fronrath


One of Roseville’s oldest businesses, Van’s Towing celebrates 70 years

By: Brendan Losinski | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published July 12, 2019

 Van’s Towing and Transport remained a fixture of the Roseville community from its founding in 1949 until the modern day. Throughout its 70-year history, the Fronrath family, which owns the company, also owned several local gas stations, such as the one pictured in 1976.

Van’s Towing and Transport remained a fixture of the Roseville community from its founding in 1949 until the modern day. Throughout its 70-year history, the Fronrath family, which owns the company, also owned several local gas stations, such as the one pictured in 1976.

Photo provided by Liz Fronrath

 Still going strong after 70 years, the employees of Van’s Towing and Transport serve the Roseville area under the leadership of Bob and Liz Fronrath, far right.

Still going strong after 70 years, the employees of Van’s Towing and Transport serve the Roseville area under the leadership of Bob and Liz Fronrath, far right.

Photo provided by Liz Fronrath

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ROSEVILLE — When Francis James Fronrath started Van’s Towing & Transport in 1949, he hoped his business would succeed, but he probably didn’t imagine it would still be going strong 70 years later.

The business is perhaps the oldest in Roseville, predating the city itself, which was still part of Erin Township in 1949. Van’s Towing is now owned by Bob Fronrath — Francis James Fronrath’s son — and Bob’s wife, Liz.

“It was started by my father, F.J. Fronrath, in 1949,” explained Bob Fronrath. “It began with a gas station owned by my mother’s uncle, Russ Van Howe; it was a Sunoco station at the corner of Utica and Gratiot. Eventually we moved across the street to the southwest corner, and they ran that until we sold it. We are now at 12 Mile and Groesbeck, at 29191 Groesbeck. My dad had been running the business for Russ Van Howe, and eventually he decided to take over outright. He started the towing portion of the business.”

Bob Fronrath said that when the time came to choose if he wanted to follow in his dad’s footsteps, he knew he wanted to uphold his family’s legacy.

“At one time we had seven gas stations and everyone in our family was involved with the business,” he said. “I was going into law enforcement, but when my father retired, I had the choice to take over for my dad in 1988 or continue going into law enforcement, and I decided to follow my dad. I always loved the business. The towing part was always something I loved doing and I saw I had to take that opportunity.”

Over the years, Van’s Towing grew to be a big part of the community.

“Van’s Towing has been a significant part of Roseville for years,” said Linda Weishaupt, the executive director of the Eastpointe-Roseville Chamber of Commerce. “They not only had their business located in Roseville, but their home and family was part of the community. They have supported local organizations and civic groups for many years.”

As the company grew, the city of Roseville grew too. Bob Fronrath remembers his childhood around the gas stations and garages fondly.

“I remember polishing tool boxes and washing and polishing cars when I was 10 years old. I grew up doing everything,” he recalled. “We had a family of six growing up — five boys and one girl. We pumped gas, we polished cars, we did everything that came up in the course of my dad’s business and lent a hand. We worked at all the different locations. I remember my dad would have the Roseville High School band come over for a fundraiser, and they would play and we would put on a car wash, and we would donate the money to the band.”

He said it was hard to see at the time, but having a business tied to a community over that length of time changes how he looks at both the business and the community as a whole.

“You don’t realize it when you’re younger, but as you get older, you have that sense of pride of seeing things change around you and see how you affect the community,” Bob Fronrath said.

He added that Van’s Towing wouldn’t be what it is without Roseville.

“I love this community and we have a deep commitment to the residents,” he said. “We love supporting them and the activities in the city, like the fireworks and Rosefest. It’s a good, long-standing partnership.”

Weishaupt could confirm that Van’s Towing & Transport was among the oldest businesses in Roseville, but couldn’t confirm if it was the oldest due to a loss of records.

“The chamber doesn’t have any records on how old businesses are,” she said. “The city of Roseville’s basement flooded, so they didn’t have it either. We just can confirm it opened in 1949.”

The company continues to operate all around the Roseville area with 21 trucks. Local officials said that a successful city isn’t possible without long-standing businesses to serve the community.

“The chamber is excited to have a business with their history and charitable record as a member. Businesses that contribute to the community are finding that the public is looking to support local small businesses that share their values. They want their hard-earned dollars to stay in and benefit their community. This makes for a better community, happy customers and even happier employees. Van’s Towing exemplifies what every business strives to be.”

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