Joe Luksik knows the emotional rollercoaster ride that can come with his clients.
They arrive beckoned to seek him out by a light on a dashboard. Maybe there is a sound of grinding metal. Perhaps it's just a hunch bred from familiarity. Clients may hunker down for the worst news in the waiting room.
They fear the transmission is going.
More than a few times, Luksik has been able to come out from the mechanic's operating room and pronounce the patient is suffering from a bad sensor and not a blown transmission. The difference can be a repair bill less than $100 versus one that exceeds $1,000. It's a big zero kind of difference.
"We get some happy customers then," Luksik said and smiled.
The work is not unlike dealing with a human patient. A computerized brain. Valves in the body and a transmission system like a heart that sends fluid to the right places to make the gears go and to transfer the motion to the wheels, which acts like skeleton and muscle to put the vehicle in motion.
Kennedy Transmission owner/operator Joe Luksik and his son Matt checked a used part for quality at Kennedy Transmission. The family business is part of the transmission franchise and is one of the few shops that also does brake work. (Dispatch Photos by Renee Richardson)
It normally works without a thought after a quick turn of the key. But when the process is interrupted, the agony begins in earnest for the driver.
"A lot of times the transmission will go out without people even realizing it," Luksik said.
Once the dash light is on advising the driver to seek engine service soon, Luksik suggests heeding that advice early on. "It could be something really simple."
Luksik opened his Kennedy Transmission and Brake shop on Washington Street in May and said business has been good. He is the lone full-time mechanic. His wife, Cyndee, helps with the books after hours. And 12-year-old son Matt is helping out inside the shop this summer. Recently the two worked to confirm the quality of a used part.
Kennedy Transmission in Brainerd is one of the first shops in the franchise to do brake work. There are 33 Kennedy Transmission stores in the 42-year-old chain, largely based in Minnesota and expanding in the Midwest.
Luksik worked for Kennedy Transmission between 1990 and 1994 before going on to other ventures. When he decided to open his own business, he found himself going back to them and liked the opportunity the franchise presented.
"I'm glad I did it," he said.
Now his own boss for the first time, Luksik said he enjoys the challenge.
"You know what goes on everyday," he said. "You can control it."
He took classes for small business development through the Hibbing Community College where the Luksiks were living and he started his small business plan. Then his wife found a job in the Brainerd area so they relocated and started looking for locations here.
"It all kind of fell together for us," Luksik said.
Luksik took a three-week course with Kennedy Transmission. Luksik transferred his small business studies to Central Lakes College in Brainerd and found more start-up assistance from the Brainerd Lakes Area Development Corp.
"They helped us form our business plan to a T," he said. "They were just tremendous."
Luksik gained information on potential locations and help determining what the business would need to survive. Luksik worked with BLADC and the Small Business Development Center located at the college in Brainerd.
"I had all these ideas on what I wanted to do and they helped form it," Luksik said.
The Luksiks remodeled the building on Washington Street. Kennedy Transmission works with any model or make of vehicle and draws from a background of experts from the chain as needed.
For Luksik, it's a start.
"I wouldn't mind owning another store down the road," Luksik said. "It'll be a while. But I'd like to pursue that down the road."
He said the welcoming business climate in the Brainerd lakes area was a plus.
"They seem like they want us to grow," Luksik said of the community. "That's what drew us to town too.
"... I was surprised at how fast we've taken off," Luksik said. "It's been a great bonus for us."
Kennedy Transmission is open from 8-5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
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