If you’re familiar with Mazen Muna, it’s probably for his five Dogg Haus restaurants spread around Milwaukee. But Muna’s first love was cars, not hot dogs, and for the last five years, he’s had the chance to look a Milwaukee’s nicest ones every day. That’s because in addition to sausage joints, he owns Metro Hand Car Wash & Detailing, a high-end auto care shop right in the heart of Downtown.
With an eye on the little things, Muna has quietly built up this extremely high-end detailing shop with big-name clients, but he also prides himself on running a place where anyone can feel welcome.
"Cars have been my hobby since I was a little boy," says Muna, who’s first job was working at car rental companies in college. "I have had personally bought and sold over 50 cars in my lifetime thus far."
As for Metro, 1510 N. Van Buren St., Muna was a customer here when it was East Bay car wash, but wasn’t impressed with the work – so he bought the business in 2009 and renovated it over the course of a month.
So what’s the difference between a good detailing shop and a bad one?
Says Muna, "You have to understand what your customer is looking for. We are not a 'salesy' place. We do not sell what the customer doesn't need. We recommend things based on what the vehicle needs – what’s in the best interest of the vehicle and in the best interest of the customer."
With that attitude, Muna says most of his clients are repeat customers – frequently pulling up in Lamborghini Gallardos, Mercedes SLS AMGs or "Bentleys, all day long," he says.
"If you don't know where all the compartments are on a Porsche 911, you're not going to get the Porsche 911 completely clean. There's about eight compartments in a Porsche 911 that open and close that you would never even know exist. In a Mercedes S Class, you have about six in the doors and underneath the seats that are actually hiding places," says Muna.
Using environmentally-friendly cleaning supplies, Muna and his handful of longtime employees also get to know their customers’ vehicles. "We know the majority of our customers by name. We know the little dings and the illnesses of their cars."
And that knowledge matters, he says. "To actually detail cars is not simply the act of cleaning. When you're detailing you need to know that this piece of equipment and this chemical is permitted to use."
Not surprisingly, Metro isn’t the cheapest place in town, but Muna says his prices are competitive.
"You get what you pay for," he notes. "A gas station car wash might be $11. You drive through, and your car is dripping wet, and it's a chemical wash. Our economy wash is $15. We clean the windows. We clean the wheels all the way through. We dress the tires. We dry the car by hand. We clean the door jams."
Muna's top of the line product is $270, and he performed that service on my 2014 BMW 428i for this article. I can say that my car came in pretty dirty and left a few hours later looking cleaner and more sparkling than when I bought it. Inside and out, it was perfect.
Says Muna, "When a car is bought, it's already clean. They prep it. They rip the plastic off the floor. They screw in the antennas, put in the appropriate fuses, do what they need to do, run it through the wash, some kid dries it off, sprays the tires down with tire dressing and gives it to you. You drive two blocks down, the tire dressing is flinging up all over the car. We apply it with a paintbrush, and if there's excess, we wipe it off because we know once you go 60, we don't want any ‘over sling’ coming off of your tires onto the body of your car."
In all, the auto detailing business is quite different from the sausage business.
"The most important thing in either business is the people," says Muna. "I have to keep my internal customers happy in order to make my external customers happy. My employees and I have a relationship that is a very strong relationship, meaning that they understand, and they see the vision and the long-term opportunity with either of the businesses. Whether it is selling a $270 detail package to a customer or whether it's selling a hot dog, every customer is treated with respect, they’re listened to, and we like to give them what they want."
And Muna still gets his hands dirty at both jobs.
"I'm here on Saturdays. I wash cars. I'm cleaning rims. I'm vacuuming. I'll see a customer here, and I’ll get his 911 cleaned up on a Saturday during the day. I'll go home for a couple of hours, rest, then I'll hop down to Cathedral Square for a while. I'll go across, and say hi to the guys at Taylor's, and I'll see the car. I'll see the customer, and he says, ‘What are you doing?’ I'm like, ‘I'm working.’
Whether he’s detailing the cars of Milwaukee Bucks or Brewers, or off-duty Milwaukee Police officers, Muna says he still enjoys the work. And he’s open to the idea of opening more locations, as he’s done with the Dogg Haus.
Says Muna, "It creates a good work ethic when the owner is not lazy, and the owner is just not an it or a check. This is therapeutic for me."
Andy is the founder and co-owner of OnMilwaukee.com. 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 OnMilwaukee.com 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.