LifestyleBlack History Month


Meet the man behind one of the longest operating Black businesses in Milwaukee

"I'm 84 and still coming to work everyday."
Adams Auto Body Shop
Posted at 6:05 PM, Feb 09, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-29 14:09:05-04

MILWAUKEE — In Milwaukee's Harambee neighborhood, sits one of the city's oldest African American owned businesses. It's been around for more than five decades.

At the corner of 5th and Center, a pink building with bold writing catches your attention. It's home to Mr. Adams Auto Body Shop.

"Business has been good, it's been good," Owner of Adams Auto Body Shop Cleo Adams said.

It has been good for Mr. Adams for 56 years.

"When I started, there was no such thing as computers to write an estimate," Mr. Adams said.

In fact, when he opened the shop back in 1966, gas cost 31 cents. Fast forward to today and things are much different, but for the Harambee neighborhood, one thing has been consistent... Mr. Adams.

Cleo Adams, owner of Adams Auto Body Shop
Cleo Adams, owner of Adams Auto Body Shop

"I'm 84 and still coming to work everyday," smiled Mr. Adams.

TMJ4's Ubah Ali asked Mr. Adams when he started the business 50 plus years ago if he thought he'd still be working today. He said he always thought he would live for 110 years and as long as he was able to come into work, he would.

Honorary street sign for Cleo Adams
Honorary street sign for Cleo Adams

Mr. Adams has earned many accolades over the years, one came in the form of an honorary renaming of 5th street.

Mr. Adams daughter was the one who wrote to the city explaining how she thought her father deserved this honor.

If you ask him why he still hasn't retired, the answer is simple.

"There's more fun here than there is at home," Mr. Adams said.

He said members of the community and teaching mechanics about the trade makes it all worth it for him.

So, we had to ask him his secret to staying in business is.

"The secret to any business is to treat your customers right and to be fair no matter what," he said.

He said that's his goal everyday when he walks into the shop.

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