Auto service shop owner is grateful for good people who do quality work
By Jeff Kurowski | On Mission
HOBART — Al Huss is quick to give credit for his business success to his employees. Al Huss Auto & Truck Service & Repair employs approximately 25 people at its three locations — Kaukauna, Bellevue and Hobart.
“We hire really good people,” he said. “I have employees who have been with us 21 years, 12 years, 10 years. I have some good long-term people. We went through our share of people over the years, but if they are good people, loyal, faithful and do quality work, we want them to stay around. I’ve been fortunate.”
Creating a positive work culture for employees is important, explained Huss, a 2024 Faith That Works Award recipient (see box). He said that it is Brad Knoll, business development director and his right-hand man, who has taken on that task.
“[Knoll] is really driving business, making the culture better every day at all the shops,” said Huss, a member of both Holy Cross Parish, Kaukauna, and St. Martin of Tours Parish, Cecil. “He is so much about team development and the people depending on each other and working together as a team. That’s a big thing.”
Huss added that he appreciated employees who had faith in their life.
“People who have faith in their life, truly live every day that way, are just quality people,” he said.
Huss grew up the youngest of eight children in Little Chute. His family belonged to St. John Nepomucene Parish, and he attended St. John School. He learned the importance of attending Mass during his youth.
“When I was young, 10 or 12 years old, I raced Motocross [off-road motorcycle racing]. I knew that if I didn’t go to church, I would blow a tire or I would blow an engine, something like that,” he said with a smile. “I learned at a very young age that you have to give an hour a week or more to God.”
Huss strives to provide a good physical working environment for his employees. For example, all of his shops are air conditioned, which he said is “a big plus for technicians.” Another example is the renovations he completed at the Hobart location. Huss did the work himself to create a large break room and a conference room on the upper level.
“The break room was pretty tiny,” he said. “Now we have this big room for the employees. I wanted to give them a nice place to eat.”
Huss started with the Kaukauna location in 1996. He worked at a mill in Appleton for 10 years after high school prior to venturing into the auto service business.
“The whole time [at the mill] I was purchasing tools, and I had a shop where my Kaukauna shop is today. I bought that in 1991,” he explained. “I had it five years before I opened the business.”
Huss started by doing body work on vehicles.
“The body business is my love, but it’s so up and down. It’s very busy, and then it’s down,” he said. “In the service business, everybody needs oil changes; everybody needs brakes, all year long. In 1999, I went to this seminar about running a service shop. I stopped body work at one point for a few years and then got back into it [before stopping permanently in 2019].”
Huss purchased the Bellevue and Hobart shops in 2016.
“I don’t recommend buying two businesses within a few months,” he said. “It was a tough five years. It was too much for me. If it wasn’t for the people I have working for me, I couldn’t do three businesses.”
The Bellevue shop opened in April 2016. The Hobart location opened in January 2017 after remodeling was complete.
“This one is really kicking butt,” said Huss about the Hobart location with a laugh. “We are growing every day. We had our best month ever in August . We are really getting business.”
Using premium parts is a priority and a service to the customers, said Huss.
“I put stuff in customers’ cars that I would have put in my mother’s car. That used to be one of my lines,” he said. “I say it to my people. Right now, we give a three-year 36,000-mile warranty. I’m looking at moving that up to a five-year 50,000-mile warranty. We try to stand out for doing quality work.”
Huss stopped working on vehicles years ago when an employee told him to “go into your office and do your job, and I will do my job out here.” He listened.
“He was right, I couldn’t do both,” he said.
Huss and his wife of 33 years, Julie, have three adult children, two grandchildren and another grandchild on the way. They split time between their home in Kaukauna and a house on Shawano Lake, thus the two parishes.
The couple took part in Marriage Encounter in 1997. Huss said he recommends the experience and has embraced other opportunities to grow in his faith over the years.
In 2003, he made a Cursillo weekend that includes prayer, guided talks by priests, religious and laity, and in 2011, took part in Christ Renews His Parish (CHRP), a two-day retreat.
“Those were high points in my life,” he said.
Currently, he and Julie are part of a Tuesday night Bible study with four other couples that includes viewing “The Chosen.”
“We take turns hosting, making a meal,” said Huss. “We have talk time, glasses of wine and watch a video. I look forward to it.”
Huss also lives out his faith through service. He does a large fundraiser as a member of the Appleton Breakfast Rotary Club.
“I do it at [Wisconsin International Raceway] in the Dick Trickle Pavilion. We probably make $6,000 to $9,000 each year. Everything we make, the Rotary matches,” he said. “We’ve paid for wells. We paid for a water line along a mountain [in Haiti]. They had to dig it by hand.”
Huss added that he admires Julie for her outreach, including volunteering for the annual Catholic Charities Gala.
“All of our life, we’ve had some great things happen,” he said. “It’s good to give back.”
Award recipients to be recognized
The 2024 “Faith That Works” award recipients will be featured in “On Mission” magazine throughout the year. The awards honor those who integrate their Catholic faith into their workplaces, parishes and communities. Award recipients are selected by an independent panel of judges from submitted nominees. A “Faith That Works” Mass and luncheon with Bishop David Ricken will be held in November.