Westside auto shop owner: A wrenching experience for 30 years
Mike Greer wasn't born with a silver spoon in his mouth, but there might have been a socket wrench in one hand.
His 30 years as an auto-repair shop owner - most of them as Japanese Auto Specialists at 1371 Pecan St. - have culminated a lifetime fascination with machinery. His Westside childhood days included building chug (soapbox) racers on the Bijou Street Hill, working on motorcycles and even underage-driving his first car at age 15. “I was born to the job,” he grinned in a recent interview. “I always liked tearing things apart.”
There might be a trace of chagrin (certainly a large twinkle) in his eye when he recalls that first car, a '39 Chevy four-door sedan. “My parents didn't even know I had it,” he said. “I used to park it four blocks away. I'd say, 'See you later,' walk to my car and drive away.”
The Chevy's engine blew up before long, but Greer was just getting started. Through his later teen years, he began building a reputation as a mechanic. “The neighbors would bring me their cars,” he said, and (usually) he'd get some money for fixing them.
After graduating from Palmer High School, Greer earned an associate degree in auto mechanics from Pikes Peak Community College (then located in Old Colorado City's Old Town Plaza), then worked for about 10 years for other motorcycle or auto repair shops. Eventually, the idea of having his own place appealed to him. In 1979, he secured a bank loan and “hocked” some cars he owned. This enabled him to buy equipment and rent a place in the south downtown area. “I started telling everyone I know, and people started coming around,” he said.
He found a niche with Japanese autos at a time when they were just starting to hit the American market in a big way. When he moved to his current location in 1983, taking the two units at the south end, he changed the name to Japanese Auto Specialists. He's kept it that way ever since - even though, with greater universality in modern tools and equipment, he and his crew can (and do) fix any kind of vehicle nowadays, Greer said.
In the early '80s, there wasn't much development around Pecan Street (a block west of 21st Street), and his business was one of the first in the first phase of a new, 11-unit, one-story cinderblock industrial building in the 1300 block.
His initial plan for the Pecan location was to couple the auto repair with a salvage yard on 21st Street. But the city objected, so he moved the yard farther west on Busch Avenue. He's since gotten out of the salvage business, though he still uses the yard as a source of spare parts, when needed. He's beautified around his Pecan Street units, upgrading the driveway area (which was once rutted dirt), with cobblestones and landscaping.
Japanese Auto has become a family operation over the years. Married to his wife Elizabeth since 1980, Greer's mechanical crew consists of brother-in-law Ken Martinez and sons Jason and Jeremy.
In his sons, who've been working for him since they were teenagers, Mike sees the next generation of Japanese Auto Specialists. “I'd like to get the kids to the point where they can take it over,” he said.
He doesn't envision a quiet retirement for himself. He's got some other land off Busch Avenue that he hopes to transform into a “pump track,” in which bicyclists can navigate an undulating course using body weight for power instead of pedaling.
No surprise that even his next career won't stray far from the mechanical realm.
Westside Pioneer article