SHOP STATS: 59 Auto Repair Location: Plainfield, Ill. Owner: Linda and Richard Brauer Staff Size: 12 Average Monthly Car Count: 366 Annual Revenue: $1.8 million
Rich and Linda Brauer like to joke that they’ve mastered the art of terrible singing.
Co-owners of 59 Auto Repair since 2006, the couple have organized their fair share of employee birthday celebrations, which always includes a crown along with the singing of “Happy Birthday” in front of their customers.
It’s just a small part of a larger goal that the Brauers have on their minds every day: Treat every employee like a member of the family. And it led them to be named one of Ratchet+Wrench’s 2022 Best Workplace winners.
“We consider ourselves family,” Dave Matel, the shop’s foreman, says. “With the Brauers, if you need something, all you need to do is ask.”
A Family Dynamic
The family atmosphere is seen both literally (six family members making up the staff of 12), and through the shop’s actions. Matel has known the Brauers for more than 25 years. One of their techs has been at the shop for 13 years, another for 14. The Brauers inherited two employees when they bought the repair shop 15 years ago; both stayed on until last year when they retired.
The duo work in tandem to keep the shop’s atmosphere where they want it, with Linda manning much of the backend HR, bookkeeping and management and Rich handling the shop floor. They credit that split approach in keeping the shop culture intact, along with keeping a keen eye on the benefits that will maintain quality of life.
The shop sends its employees to NAPA, ASE and ATI training, and have two employees in NAPA’s apprenticeship program. They also have in-house mentoring for its lower-level technicians to help them grow internally. As a result, the shop was named the NAPA Auto Care Center of the Year in 2021. Rich has been named ASE Technician of the Year for the Chicagoland area three times.
Elevating Employee Passions
The shop, with influence from its employees, is also very active in the community. They are an active drop-off site with a local food pantry, participate in a backpack program to give children meals on the weekends, and, this year, purchased Christmas gifts for 35 families.
The team has also worked with military veteran organization “Operation Welcome Home” for nearly 10 years, and team member Sarah got the shop involved with Cars of Hope, providing free car repairs to several local residents in need.
“We need to show our employees not with our words but our actions that we care about them and the things they’re passionate about,” Linda says.
It’s part of a wider effort to make sure their employees know they have a hand in the decision-making of the shop. Their thoughts, ideas and actions have a real impact on the business. It has helped craft a culture in which the cliche “our door is always open” is actually true.