By Andy Tarnoff Publisher Published Sep 14, 2022 at 2:31 PM

A few years ago, Mazen Muna was building an empire of diverse businesses around Milwaukee and beyond. In addition to the five Dogg Haus restaurants he operated, he had five licensees in Minnesota. There was a taco bar, as well as Plum Lounge and the car wash shop Downtown where we’re sitting today.

Now, Muna has scaled back to one Dogg Haus – the original location on Brady Street – and Metro Car Wash and Detailing at 1510 N. Van Buren St. Watching the relaxed smile as he discusses his pivot, I have to ask what happened?

“COVID,” says Muna, without a bit of regret in his voice.

“I was able to refocus and invest energy into Metro, which has basically made it 10 times as busy as it was prior to me being on site,” says Muna, who admits he was feeling the stress of growing too big too fast in a newly chaotic market.

On top of that, he was spread so thinly that he felt like he was missing out on watching his kids grow up as they get older. “I wanna spend more time with them,” he says, pointing to his son, Ghazi, 12, who is on the other side of the shop buffing a car alongside his dozen full and part-time adult employees.

“He has been here six or seven days a week with me for the entire summer,” says Muna. “And when I tell him to take a break and stay home, he doesn't want to, he'd rather be here … and he's skilled.”

But scaling back wasn’t strictly for Muna’s own mental health or balance sheet. He’s also leaning into giving back to the city he loves, and differentiating his business at the same time.

Sure, you’ll still see some of the fanciest cars in Milwaukee at Metro – they are the official detailer of the Milwaukee Bucks and service their entire fleet, but it’s several free services that Muna offers that demonstrates he’s serious when he says he wants to be “embedded” with the community.

It started last year on a frigid winter day when Muna, himself, needed to put a little air in his tires, and it sparked an idea. “What about the other residents of the east side, elderly people, people with amputated legs, veterans, whatever the case may be, or people with maybe no knowledge how to fill a tire?”

He jumped on Facebook and offered to pump air into his neighbors’ tires, free of charge, and that first day, 40 cars showed up. Sure, says Muna, some of those were regular customers who knew that Metro does this, anyway, but the simple of act of picking up cars from a nearby nursing home, filling their tires or putting some gas in their tanks, made Muna feel like he was doing the right thing.

Then he took it a step further.

Muna, like others, have seen an uptick of car break-ins Downtown since COVID, so he partnered with the Milwaukee Police Department, and now offers free cleanup of shattered glass inside car and door frames, as well as taping off windows. In the last few days, he did service for 15 cars, even though many of them are drivers from out of state staying at hotels, and probably won’t become repeat costumers.

Says Muna, “When you're leaving a business, when you're leaving a city, if the last person is kind to you, it makes the city look better.”

Muna discussing services with a regular customer.
Muna discussing services with a regular customer.

For Muna, this attitude is really nothing new, whether it’s in the business of hot dogs, tacos, martinis or car washes.

“I feel that when you have a business that's open strictly for the dollar, it will become a failure,” he says. “There's many reasons that a business can be voted best. It's not just one reason. I've always put people first, no matter what.”

And now, he finally has the work-life balance that he missed out on during the early years of his life as an entrepreneur.

“It's nice to be able to wake up at six in the morning, rather than go to bed at six in the morning,” he says with a smile.

Metro Car Wash & Detailing is open from Monday to Saturday from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m., and 10 a.m. - 3 p.m. on Sundays, though Mazen points out that he will always come in early or stay late depending on the customer’s needs. You can also book services at their website.

Andy is the president, publisher and founder of OnMilwaukee. He returned to Milwaukee in 1996 after living on the East Coast for nine years, where he wrote for The Dallas Morning News Washington Bureau and worked in the White House Office of Communications. He was also Associate Editor of The GW Hatchet, his college newspaper at The George Washington University.

Before launching in 1998 at age 23, he worked in public relations for two Milwaukee firms, most of the time daydreaming about starting his own publication.

Hobbies include running when he finds the time, fixing the rust on his '75 MGB, mowing the lawn at his cottage in the Northwoods, and making an annual pilgrimage to Phoenix for Brewers Spring Training.