|Volume 4, Issue 9||
Mike's Auto Parts
By Virginia Bruce, editor
When Pat Mahoney started his auto parts business in the early 70s, he wanted to call it Pat’s Auto Parts, but unfortunately someone else had already used that name. “My given name is Patrick Michael Mahoney, so I just went with my middle name and it became Mike’s,” he recalls. He was only 20 years old when he bought an empty building in southeast Portland and opened the doors on his first business.
He got into the auto parts business even earlier. “I was fifteen years old, a high school student without a job or direction but full of ambition. Our family was poor and anything I wanted, I had to earn. My father suggested that I speak to Tom Kreuder, who operated an automotive shop and gas station a block from where we lived. He ran his business for 40 years at that location and was known for detailed quality work. My father called him a master and said I could be his apprentice. I worked there through high school learning mechanical and business skills. When Tom Kreuder’s health deteriorated further he decided to turn the business over to me to operate. That was one of the scariest days of my life. He told me that I was to collect and deposit the daily receipts, then I had to pay all of the bills, including rent to him!”
Mahoney continues, “After a short time helping me during the transition he was hospitalized and I was on my own. I was able to double the revenue the first year. After he was doing better he came back to help me with pick-ups and assist me with my bookkeeping chores.”
Before long, though, the property housing the
first shop was sold, and Pat had to start over. Without much for
resources, he bought the inventory and equipment and moved to the
basement of his parents’ house.
When he had some money saved, he found a empty store location a few blocks
from their present store on southeast Woodstock. After four years, “I
was looking for a greater challenge than the first store could provide,
so I purchased a failing auto parts store in Cedar Mill called Reid’s
Automotive Center, the site where the Cedar Mill Mike’s Auto Parts is
The Co-op is made up of local independent auto parts stores. They maintain a warehouse on Swan Island, “sort of like Western Family in the food business,” he explains. This arrangement allows Mike’s and the others to be highly competitive with the chain stores. “Chain stores aren’t as big a problem as most people think since they can’t compete with the availability of our system,” he says. “Their pricing is only image and perception. I read that they are paying almost six figures to a pricing specialist to research where they can charge higher margins to their customers, and then advertise they will match prices when they get caught over-charging!” In fact, chain stores sometimes get parts from Mahoney and the other co-op members because of their flexibility and the good relationships they have with manufacturers and distributors.
Mahoney says that finding and training staff is the most challenging part of running an auto parts store. “You have to be part bartender, and part doctor. People come in when their car isn’t working right, and they’re not always in a good mood. You listen to their stories and diagnose their problems,” he explains. “Finding employees with listening and problem-solving skills is most important. A lot of people know about cars, but that doesn’t mean that they’re nice people,” he laughs.
Mike’s specializes in helping people who work on their own cars. These are mostly what Mahoney calls “daily drivers.” And some of their customers have “project cars.” A few days ago he had a call from a guy who was working on a ’64 Ford Galaxy. “I had his brake shoes in stock!” he exclaims. They also do a lot of business with larger commercial accounts—manufacturers and other businesses that have a staff maintaining fleets of vehicles.
In addition to stocking parts and supplies for auto repair and maintenance, the folks at Mike’s can perform a test to see if your charging system is working properly, test your battery, and read the OBD-II check-engine-light codes. They’ll also install windshield wipers, “because it’s faster to do it than to explain it to someone!”
With the recent rise
in gas prices, Mahoney says, “I see a trend toward
better maintenance—paying attention to previously neglected or delayed
servicing of simple-to-do things like air filters, tire pressure,
fuel filters, and oxygen sensors. I also see customers of all ages and genders
tackling more automotive servicing tasks themselves, since I hear them complain
they don’t have the money to have the service performed for them.”
Mahoney was one of the founding members of the Cedar Mill Business Association. He has just rejoined the group. He would like to see the CMBA help in “keeping the Cedar Mill area liveable so small business can thrive and provide the level of service and personal touch that makes Cedar Mill a community rather than just a cookie-cutter copy of LA and Orange County.”
Mike’s is located in the Milltowner Center, just west of Walgreen’s. They are open Monday – Friday 8 am – 7 pm, Saturday 8 am – 6 pm; and Sunday 9 am to 5 pm. Their phone number is 503-646-0623 and their website is www.mikes-auto-parts.com
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