Mechanic makes a comebackA serious car accident stopped Chuck Kusilek in his tracks four years ago. The popular small engine mechanic from Star Prairie had to close up his Hillside Small Engine Repair shop after back injuries made it impossible to work.
By: Jeff Holmquist, New Richmond News
A serious car accident stopped Chuck Kusilek in his tracks four years ago.
The popular small engine mechanic from Star Prairie had to close up his Hillside Small Engine Repair shop after back injuries made it impossible to work.
“When I closed, I was two months backed up for work,” he recalled in an interview Friday. “I was crawling on my hands and knees on cardboard to finish up on a couple of jobs I still had.”
But time has helped to lessen some of the pain Kusilek feels on a daily basis.
As a result, he re-opened his shop with little fanfare on Friday. His first job -- repairing a lawn mower for his son -- sat in the center of the clean shop floor.
“It took a long time to get re-opened again,” he said. “I’m still not 100 percent, but things have been getting a little bit better and I’m going to see how it goes.”
Kusilek, a former small engine repair instructor at Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College in New Richmond, said he tried to stay active by doing small mechanic projects over the past few years.
He completely restored an antique farm tractor last year, although he admits it took him a long time due to his health problems.
“I just did a little bit here and a little bit there to keep busy,” he said.
As Kusilek has slowly recovered, his former customers kept asking him if he was going to open Hillside shop again.
“People have been coming here for four solid years asking if I was going to re-open,” he said. “They’ve been pounding on my door.”
Kusilek said his popularity is the result of treating customers fairly throughout the 10 years Hillside Small Engine Repair operated previously.
“I do it old school,” he explained. “If something isn’t quite right, I don’t charge people extra to fix it. It’s like a flat rate. I might lose some money because of the extra time I put in, but they come back as customers and nobody gets taken for a ride.”
Kusilek will repair most small engine problems -- everything from lawn mowers to weed whips to snowmobiles. He’s actually a specialist when it comes to repairing older model snowmobiles. Larger dealers from the Twin Cities area often bring those jobs to him.
“I kind of like it,” he said. “It’s a challenge.”
The only small engine projects Kusilek doesn’t handle are all-terrain vehicles, boat motors and motorcycles. He said parts are too difficult to track down for such jobs, so he avoids them.
Kusilek expects business to be slow in the weeks ahead. But as past customers spread the word that Hillside is open again, Kusilek expects he’ll be busy again soon.
And, for the first time since his accident, his shop will have a unit in the Star Prairie Ox Cart Days parade Aug. 17. Kusilek and his wife, Kathy, have quite a reputation for entertaining the crowd with their parade units and they look forward to renewing that tradition.
Kusilek’s shop is open Tuesdays through Fridays from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Saturdays from 8:30 a.m. to noon. The business is closed on Sundays and Mondays.
To contact Hillside Small Engine Repair, call (715) 248-7076.