All in the Family
Hopson Automotive owner handing reins to daughter, son-in-law

By Sarah Pryor - Freeman Staff

Dec. 13, 2014

Jerry Kawatski, left, daughter Nicole Stefanski and son-in-law Ryan Stefanski at
Hopson Automotive Repair on Pine Hollow Court in the Town of Waukesha. 

Charles Auer/Freeman Staff

TOWN OF WAUKESHA - When Jerry Kawatski’s daughter first brought home Ryan Stefanski, did he really think he’d be handing down his auto mechanic business to the young man one day?

“Nope,” Kawatski said with a laugh, a faraway look in his eyes as he remembered when daughter Nicole first started dating Stefanski, then a mechanic in his shop.

Nicole Stefanski said her love with Ryan, who’s now her husband, was forged with tools and grease.

The duo married in 2004, the same year Hopson Automotive Repair moved from its original home on White Rock Avenue to a bigger space on Pine Hollow Court. Kawatski had an orange Model A truck hoisted to the top of a pole in front of the office to draw attention to the shop, which had been an institution in Waukesha since 1989.

In January, Kawatski will hand over the reins to his daughter and son-in-law and head into retirement.

“I drink and smoke too much and I want to live a little for a couple of years,” Kawatski said. “And it’s just time. Time for them to take it on.”

Stefanski said she has two goals with the business: keep making the customers happy, and make her dad proud.

Ryan Stefanski replaces a fuel filter on a Mercedes Benz Friday at Hopson Auto Repair. Stefanski and his wife, Nicole, will be taking over day-to-day operations of the |
shop from Nicole's father, Jerry Kawatski.
Charles Auer/Freeman Staff 

“I want to keep his legacy going, because he built it up to what it is right now,” Stefanski said. How is Hopson different from other auto mechanics?

Stefanski said customers always comment on how clean the shop is, and how tidy the mechanics leave the vehicles.

Continuing education is important as well.

Kawatski said with the advent of new, increasingly computerized vehicles, his mechanics must take classes at least every six months. But they don’t mind.

“All our employees really love their jobs,” Stefanski said. “And we’re going to keep making the customers happy.”