Premier Auto named Elkton Small Business of the Year
bshea@ cecilwhig. com
— When Nicole Hollenbaugh found out that she and her husband, Brandon, had been named the winners of Elkton’s 2016 Small Business of the Year Award, she was too surprised to even comprehend the honor.
The couple, who own Premier Auto & Tire, an auto service and tire sales shop, found out they won when they visited the Elkton Chamber and Alliance last month, where they thought they would dis-
cuss their business’ participation in upcoming town events.
“All the sudden they put this card in front of us — the invitation,” Nicole recalled. “It just took me a minute to realize what they were showing me. I was just so shocked, just taken aback.”
Brandon said he also wasn’t expecting to learn of the honor during the informal meeting.
“I think we were both taken aback, surprised, shocked,” he said recently. “Of course very happy, but we weren’t expecting it.”
The Hollenbaughs will receive their award during a Nov. 17 banquet dinner at Patriot’s Glen National Golf Club in Elkton.
Mary Jo Jablonski, executive director of the Elkton Chamber and Alliance, said the couple were nominated by the members of the town chamber with the chamber’s board of directors ultimately choosing them as the honorees. Criteria for a nomination includes being in business for at least five years,
being a member of the Chamber and Alliance and having done something for the community.
“They’re a good choice,” Jablonski said. “They do a lot for the community; they have a successful business, which has grown in the community and they give back to the community, which is important.”
The couple bought Brandon’s father’s Route 40 business, Charlie’s Service Center, in 2005. Both Brandon and Nicole worked at Charlie’s before, with Brandon pumping gas and repairing cars, while Nicole worked as a cashier in the convenience store.
While Charlie’s doubled as a gas station and repair shop, the couple chose to focus on vehicle repair, removing the gas pumps. They increased the number of bays from two to seven and renamed the business Premier Auto & Tire.
In 2009, they purchased the former Ranger Station at 127 W. Main St. in Elkton and turned it into Premier Auto & Tire’s second location, which includes two bays for automobile repairs. Two years later, the Hollenbaughs opened up a third location on Main Street in Newark, Del., at the former Farmer’s Radiator Shop.
Just three years ago, the couple branched out again, purchasing the former Kentucky Fried Chicken property at 220 E. Pulaski Highway, and opening up Premier Auto Exchange, a used car lot that was backed by their business’ high repair standards.
While the couple has no plans to expand their business again any time soon, they have become a more visible part of Elkton’s community through their support of local events. In October, they hosted the first charity mini grand prix to race gokarts through downtown Elkton, benefitting Union Hospital’s Cancer Center. The event was so successful that they’ve begun talking about bringing it back next year.
The high school sweethearts have been married for 19 years and have two sons, Brandon and Justin.
The event will include a social hour at 5: 30 p. m. and dinner at 6: 30 p. m. Tickets are $ 35 and people must RSVP by Nov. 11 at info@ elktonalliance. org or call 410- 398- 5076.
Brandon and Nicole Hollenbaugh, winners of the 2016 Small Business of the Year Award, stand outside of their business, Premier Auto Exchange, on Route 40.
Nicole and Brandon Hollenbaugh, of Premier Auto & Tire, backed the first Elkton Mini Grand Prix in October, which benefitted Union Hospital’s Cancer Center.