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Undercar Digest-Auto Tech Trade Magazine-Houston,Tx

Wednesday, January 9th, 2008

Mon Yu, owner of Midtown Auto Service in Houston, never planned to follow in his father’s footsteps as a shop operator – it just turned out that way. While working on his degree in criminal justice from the University of Houston, Mon spent weekends at his father’s shop, Mikey’s Muffler & Brake. For Mon it was just a way to have some extra money for the weekends.

The owner, Mikey, explaining to a customer a diagnostic report on a check engine light.

To earn it, he performed the duties of porter, estimator and counterman – all at the same time. It was a start at learning the business from his father, Man Yu, who had learned shop management from a man who made a name for himself in Houston and the United States – Sam Meineke. Mon came to the United States from South Korea with his parents when he was only 3 years old. His father found employment with Sam in the heyday of muffler shops. In 1986 the franchise founder of Meineke Muffler & Brakes offered to sell the senior Yu one of his original three-bay buildings in Houston’s inner-city district. Because of his marketing sense, Man named the shop “Mikey’s” so it would sound similar to Meineke. To this day the Yu and Meineke families are friends. “I was planning on being a police officer, but my dad was at the age where he wanted to retire, so he sold the business to me,” Mon said. “Back then the American dream was to own your own business, and he said, ‘Why don’t you take over the business?” Back then this shop was only three bays.

Mikey, showing the front of his shop displaying his State Certification and Master ASE signs.

In the past eight years that I’ve owned the business, I’ve increased the bays to a total of seven and I have revamped the shop. I’ve redone the floors and the outside parking lot, sixteen camera surveillance system added metal-rod fencing outside and rebuilt the entire building.” He also changed the business from a muffler and brake shop to a complete auto-repair center. Midtown’s services include engine diagnostics, alignments with the Hunter DSP600 laser aligner, electrical troubleshooting (the only one in the area), oil changes, brakes, starters and alternators, radiators and heaters, belts and hoses, air conditioning, timing belts, overheating issues, engines and head gaskets removal and replacement, muffler replacement and custom exhaust with a Huth bender.

ASE Auto Technician Vicent Poliski discussing an electrical issue with the owner about a customers car with a battery drain.

“We are a recognized emission-repair facility, which means we have an ASE L1-certified technician, that our shop is certified and we have followed all the rules and regulations.” This allows Midtown to inspect and make emissions repairs, he said. In the case of low-income vehicle owners, the state will provide a
waiver and give the owner up to $600 to get the vehicle up to the proper emissions standards.Those repairs can be made only at a recognized facility, such as Midtown Auto Service . Mon gets quite a bit of that business, since only about 140 of the nearly 2,500 shops in the Houston metro area meet the criteria. Marcos Rodriguez is Midtown’s L1-certified technician, Mon Yoo is a Master Auto Tech and Kareem Burnley and Vincent Polisky have several ASE certifications each and are working toward their Masters. Mon supports training, paying for ASE tests that the technicians pass and any other technical classes that are being conducted in the area. Midtown also supports the community by sponsoring baseball and softball teams. Mon said Midtown’s success has a lot to do with
the shop’s location and the quality of service and repairs. In the early days under his dad’s ownership, the location was considered “the inner city” with older, lower-income housing and not much else. Today, the shop is between downtown and the Medical Center of Houston, where people from throughout the country come for cancer treatment.

ASE Auto Technician Larry Wagner installing a new Ac Delco battery.

The area has gone through a renewal period, Mon said, with old homes and apartments being renovated. New townhouses with 1,800 square feet of living area are starting at $300,000. “It’s turned into townhouses and yuppies” moving in,” Mon said. “We’re really in a great spot on a major
intersection. Our main customers are white-collar, and we normally run about three shuttles a day to take customers downtown or to the medical complex.” Mon noted that Midtown prides itself on its customer service. “We don’t take in more work than we can handle, and we do quality work. Although in the earlier days Mikey’s repaired a lot of older Ford, GM and Chrysler products, today the shop works on a wide variety of vehicles including OBD-II domestic and most imports, as well as Lexus, Volkswagon, BMW, Audi and Jaguar models. Mon said he has no regrets about not entering the field of law enforcement. He is proud of the accomplishments he and his team have made. “One of my bragging rights is that in 2005 I was the winner on Yahoo’s search engine,” he said. “Out of 100,000 clicks, I beat out every single shop in this area. In 2006 I was winner of the Best Auto Repair Shop in houstonbest.com. In citysearch.com, in two different search engines, we were winner of best auto-repair shop.”

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4510 Almeda Rd, Houston, Tx 77004 - ph:713-523-2886

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