John Becker works
on the wheel well of a car at Becker Auto recently.
Mary Catanese/Special to The
BROOKFIELD - It
is safe to say the Brookfield and Elm Grove area is the
fertile crescent of retail development and shopping in
options offered by a short drive down Bluemound Road
from Brookfield Square in the city of Brookfield to The
Corners in The Town of Brookfield. Add in a trip to Elm
Grove Plaza, in Elm Grove, and almost anything one could
want is available.
That's what most
think of when they consider patronizing businesses in
the Brookfield and Elm Grove area, and it's easy to see
Consider just the
city of Brookfield. With a population of roughly 38,000,
it is the 18th largest city in Wisconsin. In terms of
equalized value, though, Brookfield is third, behind
only Milwaukee and Madison. The city's retail base plays
a large part in that assessment.
Peter Becker is
seen in front of his Brookfield Road blacksmith shop
Meanwhile, in a
nondescript, almost humble building at 2915 N.
Brookfield Road in the Town of Brookfield, John Becker
and his predecessors have been bending and shaping metal
as a community and region was bent and shaped around
represents the fourth generation to operate what is now
Becker Auto Body.
working when I was probably 12," John said. "My parents
will tell you more stories Ñ that since I was old enough
to hold a screwdriver or a piece of sandpaper I wanted
to go at it."
From horses to cars
John, now 52, is
the kind who took apart everything in the house when he
was a kid to see how it worked and then put it back
together. It's easy to say the trait is in his blood.
The original anvil and forge installed by his
great-grandfather, Peter Becker, is in the family's
John said the
family has documentation showing the business has
existed since 1900, and John speculates the business has
been around since the 1890s, always at the same spot.
Peter started as
a blacksmith who dropped trees and made lumber and then
worked the metal to make wagons and sleighs. He also put
shoes on horses.
Jerome Becker is
John's grandfather, and that's when the transition from
horses to cars started. John will tell you his
grandfather was a master at leading - using lead filler
to repair the body of a vehicle.
Becker, John's father, is in his mid-70s and still works
at the business. John started in 1985 after graduating
from Brookfield East High School in 1984. John said
working with his father every day offers its share of
challenges and rewards.
"It can be
testing, or trying," John said. "You have good and bad.
You think you know it all when you're a kid. You have
ways you want to do it, and you have ways he's always
"There are things
I'll show him - there are easier ways to do it, and
still do it right."
John takes pride
in keeping cars on the road. Someday he'll restore the
1969 Chevrolet Impala SS he's owned since 1987, but most
of his time is preoccupied in keeping customers rolling.
"What I enjoy
most about it is dealing with customers and giving them
options and coming up with a solution to fix the car,"
John said. "Maybe they want to fix it, not the way
someone else is telling them it has to be fixed, but the
way they want it fixed."
John offered the
example of a customer who might have knocked a side
mirror off the car, and just wants the mirror replaced
without a lot of additional expense. Becker Auto Body
will work with the customer to ensure his or her needs
"That's the part
of it I like," John said. "When we can help someone out
in a situation like that."
Becker Auto Body
does not accept credit or debit cards as a form of
payment - it's either cash or check - and can be reached