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Jigger’s: A one-stop shop for all things auto, towing

The auto body and towing company also recently added propane service

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February 9, 2023

CHILTON – Jigger’s Auto Repair, Towing & Recovery in Chilton has long been known as a one-stop shop for all auto service and towing needs.

Now, customers can add propane service to the list of offerings.

“There are other places you can drop your propane tanks off to get refilled, but often, it takes a longer period of time to get them back,” Jesse Cullen, co-owner of Jigger’s, said. “Sometimes, people don’t have hours or days to wait – we’ll fill it on the spot, regardless of the weather. You can also trade your tanks in and get another replacement at several locations, but some people are particular about their tanks and want the same one back.”

Cullen said so far, the new service has been well received.

“The last few weeks have been crazy busy,” he said.

Lisa Martin, co-owner of Jigger’s, said she’ll let Cullen take care of filling propane tanks.

“I’ll only do it if it’s more than 70 degrees outside, not raining and I can wear my shorts and t-shirt,” she laughed.

Cullen said the towing part of Jigger’s business has also “really taken off.”

“Currently, I’d say it’s about a 70/30 ratio in favor of auto repairs, but I think the pendulum is starting to swing a bit the other way,” he said. “That’s fast becoming a valuable part of the business – we’ll tow 24/7.”

Cullen said Jigger’s has the only heavy-duty tow vehicle in Calumet County.


Jigger’s Auto Repair, Towing & Recovery co-owners Lisa Martin, left, and Jesse Cullen have been running the business since Nov. 11, 2015. Rich Palzewic Photo

“That’s been a nice niche for us,” he said. “We have a pair of those trucks, which can haul semi-trucks, RVs, buses, etc. We have seven tow vehicles in our fleet.”

Looking to the future, Cullen said the plan is to purchase a rotator – one of the heaviest and largest tow trucks available.
“It’s like a portable crane,” he said. “You can go 360 degrees with it, pick something up out of the ditch and turn it to position it better. They are special – something you don’t see around here every day… They’re wonderful, but not cheap.”

Martin said Jigger’s, which got its start Nov. 11, 2015, has a goal board in the shop.

“Jesse put the goal of purchasing the rotator in 2023 (on the goal board), but I changed it to 2050,” she joked.

Cullen said the addition of the propane tank-filling service and potential rotator purchase are “just the beginning.”

“I’m forward-thinking,” he said. “I also think it would be beneficial to have a portable auto repair for older/handicapped people who can’t bring their vehicles to the shop – we’d go to them. Obviously, you can’t do a major motor overhaul, but you could change a battery, a water pump, etc. That would be another cool niche service.”

Cullen said Jigger’s is also in the process of possibly purchasing a new location in Sheboygan.

“Sheboygan County also doesn’t have any heavies,” he said. “This new location would be like what we have here – auto repair and towing. It’s close to (Interstate) 43, so there’s more industry there. If we can work that out, that might swing the pendulum toward towing even more.”

Cullen said they’re hoping to move forward with the Sheboygan location in the next few months.

“The current owners are a little older and want to retire,” he said. “It’s been for sale for a while, but I think it’s a good opportunity – a no-brainer. It’s an established business, but there are still things to work out.”

Martin said one of the “things to work out,” which is already plaguing Jigger’s, is finding available help/mechanics.

“That’s our biggest difficulty,” she said. “It’s tough everywhere, but I think it’s magnified in a smaller area. We’ve tried… we’ve spent so much money trying to recruit people. We’ve also tried high schools and tech schools.”

Martin also said when you have a smaller workforce, if anybody calls in sick or is on vacation, it’s “tougher to handle.”

“If you have 100 employees and five don’t show up, that business can likely still function – at least to some degree – and they won’t have to shut down,” she said. “If we have four employees and one or two don’t come in, that’s a huge difference. That’s a 25-50% reduction in your workforce. If we have several workers gone, I’m making phone calls to customers explaining it’s going to take longer for their vehicle.”
Navigating a difficult road
From a young age, Cullen said he faced his own adversity.

“When I was 12 or 13, I became a type 1 diabetic,” the 53-year-old said. “With type 1, your pancreas doesn’t make insulin or makes very little insulin. Without insulin, blood sugar can’t get into cells and builds up in the bloodstream.”

Type 1 diabetes, which was once called insulin-dependent or juvenile diabetes, typically develops in children, teens and young adults, but it can happen at any age.

“Only about 5-10% of people with diabetes have type 1,” Cullen said. “I had been dealing with it for 40 years.”


Jigger’s recently added propane service for customers. Co-owner Jesse Cullen said the tanks can be filled on the spot – regardless of the weather. Rich Palzewic Photo

Almost two years ago, Cullen said he was put on the list for a pancreas transplant.

“In March 2021, I received a new pancreas,” he said. “After 40 years, I’m no longer diabetic. I had some problems after the transplant, but we worked through it – I have a new lease on life.”

Cullen said he was relatively healthy at the time of the transplant – which helped him recover faster.

“The longer you have diabetes, the more problems surface,” he said. “You lose nerve endings, can lose your sight and develop heart conditions – it’s a rough life. It’s hard to take care of yourself. Since the transplant, I have a lot more energy. I’m able to take care of myself much better now.”

Cullen said he doesn’t know his donor, but he’d be open to meeting the family – someday.

“They put that in the family’s hands,” he said. “You have to respect their wishes and do what’s right for them. The day I got the transplant, there were two or three of us who went in. I know one of the guys also got a lung transplant. A lot of life came out of a bad situation.”

With his “new lease on life,” Cullen said he’s excited to be able to grow Jigger’s – both in services and in locations.
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