Shop Profile - Jerry’s Automotive Service, Waukesha, WI  

Jerry’s Automotive Service, Waukesha, WI  

Shop owner Harrison Keyes highlights his team's contributions to shop success.

“When I took this shop over as owner five and a half years ago, things were flowing very well,” explains Harrison Keyes, owner of Jerry’s Automotive Service, Waukesha, WI. “The big question I’ve had to wrestle with is, ‘how can you make something better than what it already is when you already feel like it’s the best it can be? How do we adapt and grow and make things better?’”

Luckily, Keyes says not only is it possible, it doesn’t need to be overly complicated. “Some of the things I’ve done over the years are all little things, right? Little things can add up to a lot.”

Owner Harrison Keyes

Jerry’s Automotive was opened in 1958 in Milwaukee and relocated to Waukesha in 1993. Keyes, the 2023 Auto Value and Bumper to Bumper Technician of the Year Champion, became the third owner of the shop in 2018. He credits attention to detail and care for customers and employees as keys to his success.

“Jerry’s Automotive has been a Bumper To Bumper Certified Service Center (CSC) member since long before I’ve ever owned it,” Keyes says. “The relationship with our Auto-Wares distributor, Bumper To Bumper Waukesha, is how I first got involved. Like I said, we’re over five and a half years with me owning the company, though I’ve worked here since 2000. Initially, I was always with them because of the people, the people behind the counter, the people behind the phone and the drivers. I mean, you build relationships with these people and it’s friendly.”

Keyes says he eventually came to recognize that what started as a personal relationship has grown into a professional partnership. “There’s a lot more to an Auto-Wares and Alliance relationship than the average technician or shop owner may even realize,” he says. “They’re always advancing and growing. And they’re trying to think about us, their customer.”

Keyes says the business resources he’s able to access from his participation as a Bumper To Bumper CSC benefit all aspects of his shop – his profitability, his employees and his customers.

“For example, they used to offer a two-year/24,000-mile warranty. It was fantastic – no matter how good your parts are, something could always happen, and they always take care of it. But this year, they raised it to three years/36,000 miles. That’s a pretty big commitment, if you think about it!”

In addition, Keyes says the Confidence Plus North American Warranty and SafeRoute Roadside Assistance program gives his customers additional peace of mind. “I promote it because, especially this time of year, someone will bring a car to be checked over before driving to Florida for a week. I give them a key ring with the Confidence Plus phone number on it and tell them ‘If you have any problems, call the number on this key tag. They’ve got roadside assistance that’ll come out and help you.’ That goes a long way to instilling confidence in our work.”

Keyes says he’s thankful for the support he gets from his main supplier. “I take this very seriously because to know that somebody’s fighting in the background for you, being active with the whole Right to Repair Act. The fact that Auto-Wares and the Alliance are very involved in ensuring that these laws stay in our favor is huge. It’s literally becoming a daily struggle with some of these OEMS trying to get information because they’re so proprietary – thanks to Auto-Wares, we’re still able to do what we do – fix cars.”

Having the skills to fix the cars is vital – having the cars to fix is equally important. Keyes says a change in his shop management software system makes managing his business easier than ever.

“A year ago, we switched our customer management system to Tekmetric’s system that incorporates customer texting through Autoflow and parts ordering capabilities through MyPlace4Parts,” he explains. “The challenge is to properly configure the system for our customers, to incorporate pre-visit scheduling as well as post-repair follow up. Just 24 hours after the car is delivered, the driver receives a follow-up text. ‘On a scale of 1 to 10, how did we do?’” 

Keyes says problems rarely occur but if there’s something that needs to be addressed, it lets his team know about it. “Sometimes you just don’t know because people just leave unhappy and never come back. This gives them an easy way to give you some feedback.”

Jerry’s has a solid reputation with its customer base, which comes from technical proficiency, an ability to work on everything from individual daily drivers to local service fleets to vintage and performance car collections.

Keyes is proud to list his own professional skills – he holds ASE A1-A9, L1, L2, L3, C1, T1, T2 and T6 certifications – but is equally eager to praise his team for their commitment to their customers and their craft.

Dave Neil, Service Writer, holds ASE certifications A1-A8 and C1. “I’ve been working on cars as long as I can remember, starting with my dad in the driveway on the weekends. I got my first actual auto repair job in 1990, where a wide range of auto repairs gave me my first real experience in customer service.” 

Neil says as he moved up through various positions in the industry, he was able to sharpen his knowledge and skills. “Working at Jerry’s for more than 10 years has given me the best experiences in my career, due to the high level of knowledge and demand for perfection this industry lacks.” 

Shane Simpson, Service Writer, has more than three decades in the industry, with a variety of roles including retail and wholesale parts, outside sales and service writing. His 5-year anniversary at Jerry’s will be this September. 

Brian Swanson, parts manager, began his career more than 40 years ago as many in this industry do, sweeping floors and cleaning up. He says he started in a heavy-duty truck shop, and moved to various truck and automotive dealerships before joining Jerry’s a decade ago.

Matt Warden, Head Technician/Team Lead, holds multiple ASE certifications including A1-A9, C1 and L1.

“I did high school co-op at Jerry’s in 1998. After graduation, I did a co-op/state journeymen’s program where I worked and went to class once a week for a two-year program,” he says.” I got my state’s journeyman’s certificate and have continued working at Jerry’s since then.”

Tyler Getsfried, Head Technician/Team Lead, holds ASE certifications A1-A9, L1 and L2. He says his career began in the garage with his father, working on small engines. “In seventh grade, he even helped me weld together a custom chopper bicycle, to which I added working headlights and taillights.”

Getsfried’s varied industry experience gave him powersports and marine training, as well as custom wheel fitments, alignments and suspension repair. However, he credits his current situation as being the most significant.

“Since I have been with Jerry’s, I have received my Master, L1 and L2 certifications. I don’t think I would be the technician I am today without this place. Everyone is always willing to help, and we voluntarily share our knowledge with each other.”

Shane Tennyson, Head Technician/Team Lead, with A1-A9, G1, L1 and L2 certifications, says he started by fixing whatever he could.

“I pretty much started by finding anything with a motor in it that people were throwing out or had on the side of the road. I then got into snowmobiles and four wheelers, fixing all my friends’ stuff. Bought my first truck from my grandpa that needed a motor and my friends and I put a junkyard motor in it in high school. That’s right when I started at Jerry’s.” Shane has worked at Jerry’s since 2013 and has an Associates degree from Waukesha County Technical College. 

Joel Sebald, Advanced Level Technician, holds ASE certifications A1-A9 and L1.

“In high school, I worked at Felsing Service in Milwaukee, then attended MATC downtown. After that, I worked at a Subaru/Peugeot dealership that went out of business. I knew Jerry and Kenny, owners at the time, and they offered me a job. This September will mark 40 years at Jerry’s.”

Caleb Kotowski, Technician, has worked at Jerry’s since 2019. He graduated from the local technical college with a two-year associate degree in 2021 and is currently working to obtain his ASE certifications. Outside of work he is very proud to participate in an annual missions trip to Mexico to build housing.

Ben Wierzchowski, Technician, started wrenching on cars with his dad in the driveway in middle school. He took some auto classes in high school but says he really didn’t know what to do after high school, so he went to UW Milwaukee for a couple years. During the end of Covid he worked in a shop for a few months, then decided he liked working on cars, so he enrolled at WCTC. “I started working at Jerry’s and graduated from WCTC in December. Now I’m working full time at Jerry’s. “While in school, he passed the entry level brakes, suspension/steering and HVAC ASE tests. He has signed up for regular ASE tests and is eager to achieve ASE Master Tech.

Saagar Ali, Technician, has his ASE A4 certificate. He has worked for Jerry’s Automotive since January of 2022 and, in his free time, he enjoys raising pigeons.

Breno Cardona-Vega, Apprentice, moved to Wisconsin from Oregon. He is scheduled to graduate the local technical college in June and is currently carrying a 3.9 GPA, Keyes says. He likes to collect mugs in his free time.

Jacob Schulz, Apprentice, is a senior in high school and is progressing well, Keyes says. Close to completing his first year at the shop, he has a strong thirst for knowledge.

Adam Scholl, Apprentice, joined Jerry’s team in October. A senior in high school, he loves dirt bikes.

Domenico Schifano, Apprentice, is a senior in high school who started in August.

Stephen Bittner cleans part time while he is not in school chasing his degree in Mechanical Engineering.

Aiden Preiss started working at Jerry’s last summer at the young age of 14. Keyes says he is currently cleaning and assisting with small car repairs. He is like a giant sponge and is very eager to learn.

Roschelle Franklin, Office. “Roschelle has worked here since 2022 and has been to 46 states on a motorcycle,” Keyes says.

Emily Amidon assists in the office with daily sales. Outside the shop, she enjoys hydrofoiling. “She started landing flips on the hydrofoil consistently in 2023 putting her in the top 10% of women hydrofoilers in the world,” Keyes says.

“This diversity of talent and level of skill is apparent to our customers,” Keyes says. “We’re consistently booked two weeks out right now,” Keyes says. “Slippery seasonal conditions bring people in for tires and suspension service, but we can handle it all, including 4×4 services, A/C repair, alignment, brakes, car and truck care, foreign and domestic cars and trucks, electrical and electronic services, engine and transmission, general services, heating and cooling services, inspections, tires, towing, transmission services and undercar services. Our goal is to offer the best automotive services available at affordable prices to get drivers back on the road in no time.”

It’s simple, Keyes says. “We go out of our way to make sure things are right. The average ticket these days is over $1,000 – we can all agree, that’s a lot of money. Our goal is to take care of the customer, because if you take care of the customer, they’ll take care of you.” 

Keyes acknowledges that his customers and his team are the real key to his success – I have such an amazing crew. We definitely have our challenging times, but everybody’s willing to work together as a team and get us where we need to be.”

This mutually beneficial relationship is a blessing, Keyes says. “They’re the reason I’m here – I couldn’t do this without either client or crew.”

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