Times are tough, but Mike Michaels, 65, appreciates what he's got. Right now, owning Mike's Belleair Automotive on Indian Rocks Road in Belleair Bluffs has its advantages. "Put it this way, I sure wouldn't want to be selling new cars right now,'' he joked. Mike's Belleair, which includes two other full-time mechanics, is heading into its 30th year. In order to keep operating, Michaels hopes to see $35,000 worth of business each month. "The recession is hurting us some, but all-in-all (the business) seems to be doing okay,'' said Michaels, who lives with his wife, Jeanne, in the Oakhurst area. They have three daughters and two granddaughters.
1What is the key moneymaker for you? It's usually doing maintenance, and right now, during these times, some customers are not doing proper maintenance because they don't have the money. They should stick to the schedule though, because it can become costly.
2Can you give a comparison of what happens to those who don't follow the schedule? For a 5-year-old car, if someone gets a complete oil and filter change and lubricates every 3,000 miles, that would (generally) cost $28. But, if you don't get that done, an engine overhaul could cost from $1,000 to $8,000.
3Do you think this location, in an affluent neighborhood, is a benefit? Yes. I've only had six bad checks in 29 years.
4What do you think of the General Motors collapse? I certainly think they needed overhauling. Their problem was that they kept building big stuff because of profit so they didn't build the smaller, fuel efficient cars.
5What was the first car you owned? It was in 1964. A Ford. It had a 427-cubic inch engine and two four-barrel carburetors with four-speed transmission. It was more powerful than what the police were riding in at the time. When I got married, I had a champagne colored '65 Mustang and a '56 T-bird convertible. The T-bird only lasted a year. My wife would say, 'You think more about the T-bird than you do me.' I got rid of it.''