Crest Hill business owner caters to Joliet area teachers
Jason Kuriger knows importance of giving back
CREST HILL – Jill Carter read the letter Jason Kuriger dropped off at Chaney Monge School in Crest Hill and took a chance.
Carter’s car needed a mechanic. Kuriger, the owner of a Mr. Transmission/Milex automotive repair shop in Crest Hill, offered a Teacher Loyalty Program, which meant a 15 percent discount on most services.
She found the service to be friendly and reliable. No slick pushes for unnecessary repairs. Free rides to and from work when her car is in the shop. No messes left inside the car. Reasonable prices.
“I can trust him when he says, ‘You need this’ and ‘Yeah, this will wait,” said Carter, a reading interventionist at Chaney Monge School.
Kuriger began the Teacher Loyalty Program when he opened the shop three years ago. About 95 teachers are enrolled in the program and it’s growing, primarily through word of mouth. Enrolling is easy.
“Show me you’re a teacher with the ID of the school you belong to,” Kuriger said.
Teacher or not, all Kuriger’s customers receive the same quality service as Carter described.
“It’s not the car that matters. It’s the customer,” Kuriger said. “They come in here and we treat them like family.”
To Kuriger, the Teacher Loyalty Program is really a teacher appreciation program. After his parents’ divorce, Kuriger said he attended 10 schools in Plainfield and Joliet during his school career and endured 13 moves. Kuriger credits teachers and school staff for his success today.
“The only people that made me feel part of something were teachers and faculty members,” Kuriger said.
Too shy to engage in recess and too poor to afford hot lunch, Kuriger overcame his low self-esteem through stocking classroom shelves or wiping tables in the cafeteria and taking out the trash.
The perks? Feeling appreciated, which built up his self-esteem. That’s in addition to the extra cookies and milk, and the ability to earn free lunches.
“I always strove to get positive feedback from the people I helped,” Kuriger said.
By the time Kuriger was 16, he was working two jobs – at a bowling alley, as well as delivering pizzas – in addition to attending school and living in an apartment with an older brother.
When the brother accepted a job in Pennsylvania, Kuriger stayed and paid the rent. He was evicted seven months later when it became known Kuriger was a minor. A friend’s family took him in. Kuriger said he refused to stay for free and paid rent – even after he joined the U.S. Marines in 1991 because his possessions were still in that house.
When Kuriger moved into his own apartment, his friend’s mother had a surprise gift for him.
“It was a checkbook with all the money I had given for rent,” Kuriger said.
Kuriger said he was just 24 when he became service director of the Saturn in Joliet. The owner’s trust in Kuriger inspired him to do his best. Even back then, Kuriger wanted to start a Teacher Loyalty Program.
Now with 22 years of automotive service behind him, Kuriger understands how to produce happy, satisfied and loyal customers. He focuses less on making big profits and more on growing his service.
“I have my own way of doing business compared to some of the franchises out there,” Kuriger said.
Kuriger said when he began his repair shop he averaged 85 customers a month. Now he averages 292. Last month, Kuriger served 346 customers. It’s worth the 70 hours a week Kuriger said he puts in.
“This has been my passion,” Kuriger said. “Honestly, I feel it has paid off.”
Jason Kuriger’s Mr. Transmission/Milex Complete Auto Care is located at 1680 Theodore St. in Crest Hill. For more information, call 815-7410646 or visit www.MilexOfCrestHill.com
To view Kuriger’s interview last May on WGN 9 about spring car care, visit http://shawurl.com/2ue7.