Cars & the Café (CG & GW)
Writer / Tia Nielsen . Photographer / Forrest Mellott
Chances are commuters going north from Greenwood on U.S. 31 do not realize they are traveling past one of the more unusual cafés in the state, Goodwrench Café. And its location is just one of the reasons for its uniqueness.
Brad Hubler owns 10 auto dealerships and a car wash in the Indianapolis area. With 600 employees, he envisioned a simple way to build rapport and camaraderie among them. Get them together in small groups around mealtimes.
Hubler remodeled his Chevrolet dealership on South US 31 in 2008. He thought adding a café for employees to use might be a means to offer high quality food choices at the work location and build a sense of rapport among all staff. The ability to offer guests complementary food and drinks while waiting for car services also appealed to him. Additionally, having catering staff on hand to prepare for special events would be beneficial.
It wasn’t quite that simple. Someone had to be found who could manage that endeavor and prepare the food. For several years, he employed a fine cook. However, earlier this year he needed a replacement.
Enter chef Amour Lopez.
The dealership general manager Brooke Hubler contacted the Our Lady of Greenwood and Center Grove graduate. She was looking for referrals to fill the opening for café manager and head cook. Chef Lopez, a 2008 Ivy Tech Culinary School graduate, asked Brooke Hubler what vision did she and her father share for the café.
The reply came back, more variety in the menu and a person who was comfortable managing both the front and the back of the house. After reflection, Lopez said, “I think you are ready for a chef.”
In addition, she had the perfect candidate in mind—herself. Her experience included catering two fundraising benefits for Herb Simon’s daughter Rachel, and being the only Indianapolis-based chef to be hired for the 2012 Rolling Stone Super Bowl party. Once the Hublers agreed, Lopez began hiring and setting the kitchen in order during the spring. June arrived and the café reopened.
Lopez wants staff and guests alike to “experience the culinary from the moment of reading the menu.” A new menu for breakfast and lunch is presented each month with standard features and one daily special. The serving sizes are generous. Employees sign for whatever is purchased and the price is deducted from their paychecks.
Guests, waiting for service on their vehicles or loan approval, are served what they want to eat or drink free of charge. (Yes, you read that right. Free.)
For example, these were some of the recent menu choices:
BREAKFAST: Grilled ham, cheese & egg sandwich; biscuits and gravy; waffles or pancakes, with cook-to-order sides of meats and potatoes.
LUNCH: Hubler Signature salad (like a chef’s salad); hamburger and chips; chicken salad on croissant; or sides of fruit salad, lettuce salad or fried onion rings. Lunch specials have included ham, scalloped potatoes and candied carrots; grilled chicken with pesto sauce topped with sun-dried tomatoes served with roasted potatoes; and spaghetti and meatballs;
Every Wednesday the special is bottomless; it is all you want to eat. One Wednesday monthly is a Mystery Meal Special. Lopez prints a short whimsical clue on the monthly menu. People make a guess if it will be Mexican, Cajun, Asian or another cuisine.
Brad Hubler’s vision was for people to get to know one another better—to build a sense of workplace unity. Now the sales person sits next to someone from the office staff while another seat is filled with a technician or someone working at Brad’s Carwash, which is located behind the Chevrolet dealership.
Brad Hubler likes sharing a coke and a conversation with whomever is in the break room. It gives him a chance to get to know his employees on a person-to-person basis.
Lopez enjoys working to help achieve that goal through the relaxing times people share together over meals. Café hours are Monday through Saturday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Breakfast is served by special order from 8 to 9:30 a.m. Lunch runs 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Snacks and beverages are offered during all the remaining hours.
Brad Hubler lives up to his business tagline: “The Hubler Experience: Going the Extra Mile to Satisfy Every Customer.” Lopez adds a new twist to how staff—the front line customers—and guests can experience the culinary life all the while seated next to gleaming cars.