On the Move: La Crosse business owner told to relocate because of South Avenue road construction project

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – Small business owners will tell you that you have to be prepared for the unexpected.

COVID wasn’t the only barrier that made life difficult for the owner of Crazy Dave’s Auto Repair in La Crosse.

The state told him he had to relocate.

Any small business owner can be successful if you put your head down and keep going.

“You just got to grit your teeth sometimes and keep pushing forward,” Crazy Dave’s Auto Repair owner David Willette said.

Willette fixes cars for a living.

“I’ve basically been in the automotive field all my life,” he said.

He says his dad first got him into it.

“It’s kind of been in the family blood to fix stuff.”

Willette says he jumped from job to job to make a living for a long time.

But almost six years ago, he made a life-changing decision.

“Just got sick of working for people,” Willette said. “I want to start my own business.”

That he built on South Avenue.

“After the first couple years, it kept going, going, going,” Willette said.

Until, his business hit a roadblock.

“They just said, ‘well, you’re going to have to find a place to move,'” Willette said. “And you know, it’s kind of like a sudden thing like thrown right in your face, and you don’t know what to do.”

Beginning next year, the Wisconsin DOT is doing construction on South Avenue.

It is adding roundabouts at three intersections including Ward Avenue, the corner where Willette was doing business.

“They started saying we’re going to give you a certain amount of money to relocate, and go from there,” Willette said.

As frustrating as moving was, the 52-year-old settled on a new place on Rose Street, where Willette says he has found his happy place.

“I’m actually getting caught up and coming up above now,” he said.

Willette’s phone has been ringing off the hook.

“I’m a one-man show,” Willette said. “It’s tough, it’s tough. I’m coming in here early in the morning and late at night trying to keep everything going.”

And as tough as it is fixing cars by yourself, your success is measured by the hard work you put in.

“It’s the only way you can survive is keep moving forward,” Willette said.

Willette says he moved in to his new building at the beginning of this month.

He says he’s been so busy lately, that he’s thinking about hiring another person.

If you’re wondering how he came up with the name “Crazy Dave,” let’s just say he took some risks as a kid.

A representative from the Wisconsin DOT tells News 8 Now that more than 100 properties, including businesses, are impacted by the South Avenue project.

The DOT believes the project will improve safety for drivers and pedestrians when it’s completed.

The DOT says there have been roughly 200 crashes between Green Bay Street and Ward Avenue on South Avenue alone in the past five years.