Auto shop handles adversity to celebrate 48 years

Founded by Milt Rennicke, now owned by his son, Grafton muffler carries on despite trouble caused by former tenant facing charges
Ozaukee Press Staff

This year will mark 48 years in business for the family owned and operated Grafton Muffler.

The shop started in 1974 when Milt Rennicke began working at Riebe Oldsmobile in Grafton, formerly located at 481 Port Washington Rd. He had just finished his term in the Army, where he was stationed in Panama as a mechanic, and decided to follow the advice of his friends in the military — find a job working on cars.

“That’s what they told me,” he said.

When Riebe closed, Rennicke purchased the business and took over. His son Chris Rennicke started working there when he was 16 years old.

In 1989, the Rennicke family purchased a shop at 481 N. Port Washington Rd., moved to the new space and renamed the operation Grafton Mufflers.

Decades later, Chris has taken over the business and continues to offer auto services in the Town of Grafton. Milt, who suffered a stroke and had extensive heart surgery, continues to work in the shop, meeting with customers and completing other tasks.

Milt said he’s glad the shop has stayed in the family and that he’s still able to come in and work, even if he’s not doing any heavy lifting.

“I like it. I like working,” he said.

Grafton Mufflers specializes in fabricating muffler and exhaust systems but offers other auto services as well. Chris said collectors of older vehicles come to the shop to have pieces fabricated that are no longer produced.

Fabricating broken components of a muffler can also save customers from replacing their entire system, he added.

“We can cut and repair a specific item rather than replace the entire system,” Chris said.

Chris said the business faired well through the pandemic because customers were able to drop off cars that needed work, but one major event has created trouble for Grafton Mufflers.

Last December, Chris said he arrived at the shop to find multiple squad cars and police officers in the parking lot. He was told they were executing a search warrant for a tenant he rented space to for about five years, Danny’s Auto Deals.

Owner Sharaf Akhmedov is facing four felony charges — two for fraud against financial institution exceeding $10,000, one for transferring personal property exceeding $10,000 and one for transferring encumbered property exceeding $10,000. His next court date is scheduled for April 4.

Following the raid in which numerous vehicles, files and electronic devises were obtained by police, Chris said he hired an attorney to help him quickly evict the tenant despite being signed to a seven year lease.

“We wanted to let the town and the village know we’re done with them,” he said.

Despite the quick action, Chris said there is still a perception in the community that Grafton Muffler was involved in the raid because it occurred on the property.

The Rennickes are currently in the process of renovating the shop’s exterior, office space, waiting room and bathroom in hopes of attracting a new renter. Chris said that while he has received numerous inquiries about the space, the impression Danny’s left on the business remains.

“Even some of the retail companies who come to rent from you, they know about it,” he said. “When you go back to that it just sort of hurts. You can feel that it’s still out there.”

Chris said there are any number of businesses that would fit in the building. While a car dealership could operate in the space without a new conditional use permit, he said he is open to any business interested in the space, so long as they are a good fit for the community and have good business practices.

Chris, his fiancé and daughter in law have also been crafting a special piece for the business’ parking lot.

Chris said they had the idea to make a sculpture of pieces in the shop to catch the eye of those driving down the road. After receiving some design guidance, Chris welded together a Christmas tree-like the creation that stands outside the shop now.

He said the project was intended to jazz up the space but would consider making more sculptures if people were interested.




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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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Port Washington, WI 53074
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