Making the Jump from Customer to Shop Owner

Joe Kook transitioned from auto glass customer to shop owner in 2020 when he bought Tom’s Auto Glass

Jim Gauthier installs a windshield at Tom’s Auto Glass in Chesterfield Township, Mich. in Chesterfield Township, Mich.

Kook’s background includes 20-plus years at an independent diesel truck repair business, Berger and Sons Truck Company. He joined the truck company right out of high school in 1996, washing dirty engine parts and sweeping floors.

He stayed there as the company grew to become Eastern Michigan Kenworth with five stories and 120 employees across Southeast Michigan. He left after a larger company bought the firm.

“I’d been a customer of Tom’s forever, and I brought all my semis here for windshields,” Kook says. “In 2017, Tom said, ‘This could be a good fit for you.'”

Tom Serra started Tom’s Auto Glass in 1976. The company performed Ziebart rust-proofing and eventually expanded into auto glass. Back then, the shop sat in a rural part of Macomb County outside of Detroit.

Initially, the shop covered 6,000 square feet but grew to its current 13,000 square-foot footprint over time.

“Tom and his dad would stand at the counter and wonder where all this work was going to come from,” Kook says. “It was in a big muddy field, and the county grew up around it, with subdivisions, trailer parks, and all these big businesses.”

Kook, a 45-year-old father of two, bought the shop on New Year’s Day 2020. Three years later, the goal remains the same: grow the company.

“We’re going to build the company the old-fashioned way,” Kooks says. “Go out and find lots of customers and recruit them and treat them nice and keep them here.”

After spending decades in the heavy truck business, Kook knows a lot of people. He networks with car dealers, body shops, and insurance brokers. Also, Tom’s Auto Glass’ nearly five decades of solid customer service make the company an easy sell.

“Tom’s been around for so long and had a really good reputation that it’s a pretty easy swing for most of them to send people,” Kook says.

The shop offers windshield repair and replacement in the shop or mobile. The company provides window tint, plastic protective films, paint protection services, rust-proofing, and spray-in bed liners.

Kook employs 22 staff members. His technicians bring anywhere from 12 to 24 years of experience to their jobs. Four younger guys (under 23) also work at the shop. One of them wants to try his hands at windshield installation.

“He really wants to get into glass because it’s nicer than cleaning filthy cars all day,” Kook says.

Tom’s Auto Glass recently became a member of the Auto Glass Safety Council, which Kook says demonstrates a dedication to proper auto glass installation practices.

“I joined the Auto Glass Safety Council so that we can stay current with all the changes in the industry. They offer training, opening you to more glass business once you get on their list.”


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