Couple’s garage becomes clubhouse for car lovers

Garage has been meeting place for car enthusiasts for more than 3 decades

Originally, the idea was for a bunch of car nuts to meet Saturday mornings at Mark Sliwicki’s new garage for breakfast and to work on their vehicles.

“Except that we never worked on the cars,” said Mark, 56. “We just had breakfast and started talking about what happened yesterday, and what happened in the last week.”

That was more than a decade ago, and the garage has been a meeting place for car enthusiasts such as Mark and his wife, Alice, ever since. Not a lick of work has been done, but there have been plenty of eggs and bacon fried up. Nobody steps into the garage without getting fed.

“That’s the rule,” Mark said.

It’s no ordinary garage, Daily Herald Media of Wausau reported (http://wdhne.ws/1dJP95M ). It’s a hybrid clubhouse and auto shop, and Mark and Alice use it to restore and store their own fleet of antique vehicles, which include a 1947 Ford pickup, a 1937 Ford Tudor and a 1970 Dodge Coronet, which Mark has owned and cared for since the 1970s. Mark also restores cars for customers.

The shop also has a kind of dining room, and a bar at which people can sit around. It’s packed to the gills with auto memorabilia, and when the group meets, it also gets filled with laughing, teasing and exaggerated story-telling.

The Sliwickis call it “Uncle Jack’s Brew & Chew and Words of Wisdom,” and it’s such a welcoming place that people just keep going back again and again. It’s not about the building, and it’s not about the cars, they say.

“This is family, now,” Mark said. “We’re just one big family now.”

Mark has loved cars ever since he was in the Army in the mid-1970s. Back then, he says, a guy could buy a 1960s muscle car for a couple thousand dollars, fix it up, sell it and buy another one. Mark kept doing that over and over again, simply because he loved cars. He also opened up an auto repair garage, and even after he sold it, he worked on his own cars, and restored other people’s in the garage.

Along the way, Mark and Alice attended an upholstery school in California, a yearlong program they enrolled in so they could better restore their own cars. After they graduated, they opened Perfect Upholstery, in which they specialize in recreating old auto and truck seats and other interior items.

The business has “just snowballed,” Mark said.

The Sliwickis have found a way to blend passion, family, fun, friends and business in a seamless way that has developed into the Saturday morning breakfast gatherings.

“I love their cars, I love them,” Mark said, gesturing at the people sitting outside his garage. Mark is indiscriminate in his passion for old vehicles. Muscle cars, antique cars, pickups, hot rods — he loves them all. Lately though, he’s finding himself being particularly drawn to Ford Model As.

“It just seems like people are so friendly in Model As,” he said.

Don Trittin, 61, of Kronenwetter, drove his 1969 Dodge Coronet to the Sliwicki garage Saturday. He’s a longtime customer of Mark’s, and they bonded over Coronet love. But Don had trouble explaining just why the breakfast gatherings have lasted so long and have such a loyal following.

“I don’t know,” he said, shaking his head. “I guess you treat people decent, and they come back.”

It’s more than that, said Ralph Tarras, 71, of Weston, a neighbor of the Sliwickis.

“If you need help, Mark and Alice will do anything for you,” Tarras said. “All these people will.”

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