Our History

Proudly serving our customers since 1978

In 1960 Gene and Emma Barrow started Barrow Enterprises as a small Shell-Oil gas station on the corner of Pat Mel Road and South Cobb Drive in Smyrna Georgia. It was located across the street from Cobb Center which at the time was the largest shopping center in the southeast. The area was growing as a result of military contracts pouring into Lockheed Aircraft just a couple of miles down the road. The Smyrna/Marietta area was a boom town. Small brick houses were being built by the 1000‘s and sold as quick as they were finished.

Barrow Shell was one of those places where you would buy gasoline for your car on store credit. Your account was scribbled in a pocket notebook and you would come by and settle up at the end of the month. It was a “full-service” gas station, your windshield was cleaned, gas pumped, and oil checked while you sat in your car, this was way before the days of self-service. And a cold Coke, in a glass bottle, along with a pack of salted Lance peanuts, came straight out of the vending machine on the front sidewalk. You could then sit out front and catch up on the latest gossip. It was a colorful place with a cast of local characters.

In a few short years it evolved into a speed shop/gas station/wrecker service/body shop, all in one.

Gene Barrow had spent 4 years in the Air Force and after his honorable discharge he and Emma moved to Miami where Gene worked as an aircraft mechanic for Eastern Airlines. They remained there for a year, but both yearned to be closer to their families in middle Tennessee. After applying for a position at Lockheed Aircraft, Gene was hired. He and Emma relocated and settled in the Smyrna area. Gene continued to use his Air Force training as an aircraft mechanic for Lockheed Aircraft.

As a military contractor, Lockheed’s work was up and down, there were lay-offs and call backs. As a result of that instability Gene and Emma decided to open Barrow Shell. He partnered with his brother CD and together they ran the station. Gene would work there during the day, then work the night shift at Lockheed, while CD would work his day job at a wire plant and run the station at night. Gene would work all day Saturday, because he wanted to go to church on Sunday, and his brother, who didn’t care much for church, would work Sunday’s. It was family owned, and family operated.

The two Barrow children were in the mix during this time. When the station opened, Debbie was a pre-teen, and Blake a pre-schooler. And Emma was a wife, a Mom, a home-maker, and the company book keeper.

As fate would have it, when you get a few guys together around a place where cars are worked on, well, boys will be boys, and slow cars become fast cars, and fast cars become race cars. Gene had developed the skill to rebuild carburetors; as a result, his rebuilds yielded more power. Then engine modifications started taking place and an old beat up car became a race car, ready for the local dirt track. This became something of an expensive obsession and after a few years Emma pulled the plug on the race funding. It was a heck of a ride, and way too much fun for the guys. The race cars would be tested out of South Cobb Drive, which in those days was a straight two lane asphalt road. The local police would always seem to be somewhere else during those tests, then show up later tat the gas station and ask how the race car was running. It was fun times. Barrow Shell even had a car compete on the NASCAR circuit and race at the legendary Talladega super speed-way.

In 1968 Barrow Enterprises was awarded its first towing contract with the City of Smyrna.


Then a few years later they were awarded a major towing contract with the Cobb County Police Department, and today it’s metro Atlanta’s largest northern county. From that time Barrow Towing has grown to a fleet of 35 tow trucks and is currently one of Atlanta’s largest towing services. In 2008 the EPA selected Barrow towing for one of its pilot programs originating in Atlanta, Houston, and Chicago. The “Trip Program” was put in place with the hope that clearing the roadway quickly after a major traffic accident involving a tractor trailer/s would in fact save millions of dollars in lost revenue and wasted fuel consumption. It was also designed to lessen the impact of pollution during those times when cars are stopped in a backup and just idling. That program has become a model program and the plan is more successful than its original design, and Barrow Wrecker has played a major role in its success.

In 1978, Blake Barrow graduated from the University of Georgia with a degree in Finance. It was his desire to enter banking, but after returning home to Smyrna he started running the tiny on-site body shop. It was a small 4 bay operation. The towing service was the real business; the body shop was used as an excuse to build race cars, but the times were changing. Cars were becoming more complex in their design as plastics were introduced to save weight. Automobile refinishing techniques were also changing. Manufacturers had started introducing the two-stage paint processes.

While in college, Blake did some part-tie painting at a local Cadillac dealership in Athens Georgia. He introduced them to the process of tinting and blending (featuring-out) the color to adjacent panels to insure a color match. He also showed them the necessity of de-trimming certain items on the blended panels as opposed to masking them off. By de-trimming the jagged tape edge is eliminated so the paint doesn’t start flaking off. He had learned this technique while painting cars at home in the body shop and used it while working as a part-time painter in college ...

The 80’s: The body shop was expanded, from 3 bays, to 11 bays, and technology was introduced. Blake Barrow was one of the first body shop owners in the Atlanta area to purchase cutting edge technology: 1.) Estimating software was in it’s infancy along with 2.) laser frame alignment equipment and 3.) heated paint booth technology. He purchased an Italian built paint booth, with down draft technology. The heat evaporates impurities from the paint, plus quickly cures the finish so its ready to wash and wax within a few hours, as opposed to weeks.The uni-body car was quickly taking place of the full-frame design and uni-body alignment, by design, became more difficult and time consuming to repair. A significant amount of money was spent for these two items, but this put Barrow Body Shop ahead of the curve in the local area.

The 90’s: Tremendous upheaval in the entire industry with the advent of insurance companies gaining control of shops throughout the nation with DRP’s (Direct Repair Programs). It’s the exact same concept medical doctors face with health insurance companies and their PPO’s HMO’s etc. Barrow Body Shop signed up with two major companies, and within the first two years one of the companies became too controlling, so that relationship was dissolved. The other DRP relationship was fabulous for many years, there was genuine concern about properly repairing the customers car. An expansion of the physical plant took place with added space for the paint shop and the front offices. They were updated and expanded. Gene and Emma retired, leaving the business in the hands of their son Blake, and the beat goes on ...