Driving with HEART pushes, motivates openly-gay Moak

Wed. October 3, 2018 1:50 PM by GoPride.com News Staff

brian moak and dad (glenn)

photo credit // brian moak
Chicago, IL - There are still rainbow flags on display at the HEART Certified Auto Care store in Evanston. They went up for Pride, but company officials decided to keep them.

"It felt right," said Brian Moak, president of HEART Certified Auto Care. "Customers loved (the flags), and (I) really felt proud of us as a company and how we are inclusive to all of our customers."

Moak, 36, who lives in north suburban Lake Forest and is originally from Buffalo Grove, is openly gay, in a relationship with Matt Bevenour, 25, a publicist.

Moak came out at age 21, as a junior in college, despite growing up in the auto industry.

"I told a friend (who) I knew was safe (to tell), then told another, then my parents, and then my entire fraternity at a Sunday chapter meeting. It was an adjustment for everyone," Moak said. "My parents were surface supportive, and then, with time, become my biggest champions. My fraternity and friends were similar. I had some adversity, lost some friends along the way, but at the same time I developed some of the most amazing friendships I could have ever imagined."

Much of Moak's youth was spent in and around his dad's auto shop, from a toddler on, as he even had a playpen made out of tires. "The shop became like my sibling growing up," he said. "It was where I went after school, on the weekends, and (where I) worked during the summers. My dad was Mr. Fix-It. He could do anything. For me, it was the coolest thing to go to the shop and be around people working with their hands and putting in an honest day's work.

"This industry is in my blood."

Moak worked for his dad in his shops that were Duxler Tire and Auto. He bought the shops from his dad at age 27 and continued to operate under the Duxler brand for a few years.

"When I decided I wanted to franchise my business and expand the HEART mission to other communities, I knew I had to rebrand," Moak said. "The Duxler brand has been around for nearly a century, so we faced some challenges in changing the name. However, we clearly communicated with our customers that the same quality, comfort and inclusive environment they have come to know and love would not be changing – just the name, so that we could bring this level of service to other areas."

The HEART in HEART Auto Care stands for Helping Everyone Achieve Reliable Transportation – and it's not just a catchy name for Moak and company.

HEART is a full-service auto repair and tire company that fixes and maintains vehicles "for customers (who) want a high level of integrity, efficiency and quality," Moak said. "We offer transparent auto repair, done fast and right. Our employee tenure is an average of 13 years because we believe that our employees are the most important asset our company has, and we treat them accordingly, creating an environment that cannot be matched.

"In a setting where customers often feel vulnerable, HEART removes the 'fear factor' that can come with car trouble. Customers trust our process. We strive to be transparent with services, using tools like digital inspections – photos of both the good and bad under the hood – and provide thorough, clear explanations of the suggested repairs. Our mission is to create an inclusive and educational environment where customers feel comfortable no matter who they are or what their background (is). If our customers leave feeling empowered about something they came in feeling vulnerable about, then we have accomplished our goal."

HEART certainly crosses into the LGBT community.

Moak admits that coming-out in the auto industry "was interesting."

"I found it to be unexpected in almost every scenario," he said. "I've dealt with difficult employee confrontations, and have had to come out regularly to customers and suppliers, with the ultimate goal of winning people over and helping them grow out of what their own stereotypes are.

"Being openly gay, especially in a blue-collar industry, isn't always easy. I have faced criticism and adversity in my career. (Thus), my goal is to make sure everyone feels safe and comfortable in a HEART Auto Care store, never intimidated, whether they are a customer or an employee. The HEART brand is a welcoming brand for everyone.

"When you grow up in the closet, you learn to be a chameleon, quickly adapting to different situations. I learned how to pull out different dimensions of my personality, depending on who I was talking to and what the situation was, in order to put my most favorable foot forward and excel. When I finally came out and came back to work at my dad's shops, the environment was still somewhat challenging, despite my dad's efforts to stop (negative or homophobic) behaviors, like gay jokes. It just made me work harder, smarter and longer than everyone else to prove what I was capable of."

So, it's no surprise that Moak makes sure that every HEART has a comfortable environment – for the customer and the employees.

"We support and sponsor hundreds of organizations every year. We have LGBTQ employees that can be open about who they are, if they choose to. We educate our customers that may not know much about car service so that they don't feel taken advantage of. For me, it is about treating the auto industry like the hospitality industry, and making sure everyone is taken care of to the best of our team's ability."

There also are HEART locations in Northbrook and Wilmette, and Moak wants to expand the brand to 100 locations in 10 years.

On The Road With ...Brian Moak

Favorite Chicago Bar: Big Chicks

Personal Drink of Choice: Whispering Angels, Rose

Favorite Chicago Restaurant: Bavette's Steakhouse & Bar

Favorite Chicago Sports Team: Chicago Bears

One Celebrity You'd Like To Meet: Hillary Clinton

Favorite Pig-Out Food: Cake

Even My Close Friends Will Be Surprised To Know ..."I'm an open book."

Boxers or Briefs: "Both ...I prefer boxer-briefs."

In The LGBT Community: "I am a donor for the Human Rights Campaign and the Safe School Alliance."