Relationships Form the Basis of Delafield, Asserts Al Wagner of An American Classic
Mar 11, 2014 02:17PM
● By Laura Ustanovska
Al in his shop
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Growing up in Nebraska, Al moved east to study engineering at the Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, NY. During his second year in college, Al was hired at the General Motors plant in Massena. This position combined his on-going technical education with his passion for cars. Eventually Al was transferred to the General Motors headquarters in Detroit, MI, where he designed corvettes. Al's boss at Corvette became a vice president at Harley Davidson, and later convinced Al to quit General Motors and join him in Milwaukee. In 1995, Al made the move to Wisconsin.
While looking for a house in the Milwaukee area, Al came across the town of Delafield. Per Al, “When I first drove by Cushing Elementary and noticed all the bike slots in the bike rack were filled, I knew this was where I wanted to live.” His children, Christopher,19, and Katherine, 17, became students at Cushing, and the Wagner family came to feel at home in their new community.
When talking about his children, Al beams with pride and cites that they “are the inspiration for him to pursue his dream job.” Christopher graduated from St. John's Northwestern Military Academy - Delafield, WI and is currently going to college at West Point. He has helped his dad throughout the years with odd jobs at his shop. Katherine is a junior at Catholic Memorial High School and enjoys playing basketball, a sport that her 6’8” brother also enjoyed. Pictures of the children can be found throughout the office at An American Classic.
During one of his business trips, Al had a conversation with an elderly man who was also flying first class. This man would prove to be a source of inspiration for Al in starting his own business. The man pointed out to Al that he should not be traveling so much lest he miss out on his children growing up. This prompted Al to leave the corporate world and start his own business. With the help of Delafield entrepreneur Bob Lange, Al acquired his building in 2005, which is one of the oldest building in Delafield. “By being my own boss, I am in charge of my own destiny,” Al explains.
Al says it is the customer interaction that he likes best about his job. Many of his customers refer to his shop in Delafield as being just like Mayberry, the fictional town from The Andy Griffith Show. This just makes Al’s day. He believes the quality of his life is much improved now that he no longer travels or is involved in meetings. In the future, Al hopes to expand his business to include a new showroom and is glad to be a part of the Delafield community, where he is also a member of the chamber of commerce.
An integral part of the team that started the annual car show 14 years ago, Al formed relationships with other owners that have been part of his support system. “Building my own business has resurrected the small business mentality,” states Al. Neighbors helping neighbors and business owners helping business owners is what really makes this town special. An American Classic is open by appointment on Saturdays from 8am to 12pm (call 262-646-3566).