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
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