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At the start of Mike's Auto Parts - there was a goat

by: ELIZABETH USSHER GROFF - Pat Mahoney, owner of Mikes Auto Parts (his middle name is Mike), started the business in Woodstock, where he still lives. These days he works mostly in his Cedar Mill store, but recently THE BEE found him filling in for a vacationing employee at his Woodstock location.Anyone who has ever bought windshield wipers at Mike’s Auto Parts, at S.E. 52nd and Woodstock Boulevard, knows the value of employees who know what size is needed – and who cheerfully install them for free, sometimes in a minute or less.

In friendly competition with his employees, Patrick Michael Mahoney, the owner of the store, prides himself on the record for the shortest time taken to change wipers for customers.

More than forty years ago, when he was fifteen, Mahoney began learning the auto parts business when he worked for Tom Kreuder, whose automotive shop and gas station were located on the property now occupied by KeyBank (and the Woodstock Farmers Market, in season) on Woodstock Boulevard between S.E. 46th and 47th Avenues.

Mahoney’s father called Kreuder a “master” in the automotive and parts business, which is how Mahoney learned the trade early and well.

“I had a dream of buying the repair shop when the owner became elderly, but that didn’t work out,” he reflects today. When the property was sold, though, Mahoney managed to buy the auto parts inventory and started his own shop in the basement of his parents’ house. His father was ill, and his little store became a major source of financial support for his parents, two brothers and sister.

At that time Mahoney was only twenty, but he was used to working for what he needed or wanted. “Our family was poor, and I always provided for myself.” In fact, he started working when he was ten, managing a paper route while attending Our Lady of Sorrows grade school.

After a while, he managed to save enough money to move his small auto parts business out of his parents’ basement into a storefront at S.E. 53rd and Harold Street. He quickly gained a reputation for creative advertising.

“My cousin had animals,” he explains, “and when we joked about ‘bucking high prices’, I had the idea to get one of his goats. I painted ‘Bucking High Prices’ on an old bed sheet, and draped it over the goat’s back, kind of like a saddle.”

Mahoney then walked the goat every day for a month from the family house at S.E. 46th and Martins to the shop at S.E. 53rd and Harold. He says that walking a goat up and down Woodstock Boulevard and along 52nd Avenue was probably good publicity, and it certainly made people notice him.

Forty years later and after a stint of ten years operating Mike’s Auto Parts at S.E. 44th and Woodstock (currently the Mickey Finns location), Mahoney today has two stores – the Woodstock one now located at 6004 S.E. 52nd Avenue, and another one in Cedar Mill, in Washington County. He says his dream of expanding his business beyond two stores was put to rest when he helped care for his autistic son, in a time when little was known about autism.

His business uses his middle name, because when he registered in 1973 there was already someone with the registered business name of Pat’s Auto Parts.

Mahoney defines his business success as being based on inventory that meets customer needs, prices that are competitive even with online and “big box” stores, and customer care that makes people want to come back.

This year marks Mike’s Auto Parts’ 40th year in business – still “bucking high prices”, but without the goat. He continues to live in the Woodstock neighborhood, and recently celebrated his 30th wedding anniversary, by renewing his vows with wife Daniela.

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