“A lot of changes are being made here.”
Todd Kubera owns an auto body shop in the Midtown neighborhood where he grew up. He thinks it could be on the rebound.
Todd Kubera stands outside his shop, Schram Auto Body, at 3001 W. Lisbon Ave.
Kubera, who grew up in the area on 30th and Vliet, says the neighborhood has its pluses and minuses. “It had its ups and downs, like crime, then it’d be good, then it’d be bad. I mean, I learned to just deal with a lot of the stuff and, you know…talk to your neighbor and stuff, work something out to where you can get the neighborhood back to the way it’s supposed to be.”
So what is the neighborhood “supposed to be”?
“Neighbors should work together,” says Kubera. “Like, if there’s some crime, they need to report it. If there’s something wrong like if the dog’s barking or something or if you feel like something’s not right you need to talk to each other about it to try to solve the problem that needs to be solved.”
That’s why Kubera jumped at the chance to open a business in the area, even though he doesn’t live there any more. “I still got a lot of friends and neighbors and business associates over here,” he says. “[I] have plans for this [building] – I would never let it go. Like, the guy I bought the building from, you know, we talked for hours and stuff before we actually worked the deal out…I told him I grew up over here, knew a lot about the neighborhood and I wasn’t afraid to open a business here.”
He knows changing the neighborhood for the better might take some time but, as someone who had his daughter at a young age – he was 17 – Kubera isn’t a stranger to adversity. “It was a challenge, you know? At first, you know, like, ‘How can I support this kid?’ so I was doing a lot of odd jobs and I worked with a guy who owned a lot of real estate around here and we did a lot of work on houses. That’s kind of how I bought the Pampers and the shoes and clothes and stuff.”
Perseverance is the key, says Kubera. “Don’t never give up – I mean, don’t call yourself a failure or nothin’ like that – cause you can always go back and fix the problem that needs to be fixed.”
Kubera’s been working with cars for about 25 years, but at the beginning it was all about learning the ins and outs of the industry. “I started helping out people. Like a friend of mine had a old repair shop here on 31st between Vliet and Cherry, and I started working with him – he used to do a lot of old Corvettes and stuff and he taught me a lot. Then, I worked out at a car lot in Racine, you know, a car lot and a junkyard, and I learned a lot of stuff there, you know, just experience.”
And, that’s what Kubera hopes to do with his old neighborhood. He’s not the only one, either; he says his friend Dave and his wife, who own a coffee shop and a couple properties in the area, are “doing amazing things.”
In the end, though, it’s all about the people. “We had a customer a while ago, he wrote me a card around Christmas time he was so happy we got his car fixed so fast,” says Kubera. “You know, stuff like that makes you feel good; when a person says ‘thank you’ or gives you a card to show appreciation for what you did for them. It means a lot.”
“I enjoy helping other people – that’s another reason why I, kind of, work on cars cause some people can’t afford to take it to a big shop…and I’ll do the best I can to work with you on a project. You know, as long as you have a good attitude and are not disrespectful or nothin’, I’ll do my best to work with you and try to save you some money – I don’t have a problem doin’ that. And that makes me feel good at the end of the day.”