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A Mike of all trades

MikeHerronMike’s Custom Paint and Body is a full-service shop with equipment such as a spray booth, alignment machinery and an electronic frame measuring machine. Which is like most other local major body shops. It’s the Mike behind it all that really makes the difference.

“What sets us apart is the ability to do it, and the want-to to do it right and be honest,” said Mike Herron Sr.

It started in the mid-1970s when Herron was 18, using his love of art to create custom paint jobs on helmets, motorcycles and the like.

“Somebody wanted a custom paint job on his car, but it was wrecked, so we had to fix it first,” Herron said.

Word got around that he could do body work in addition to painting, and the company grew from there.

“I had a job, so I could actually put more time and quality in on a paint job. If I broke even, I was doing pretty good,” he said. “That period of getting good at what I did, I didn’t have to make money. By the time I went full-time, I was fully trained.”

That approach had an additional benefit of helping to establish a reputation for quality work, he said.

The operation has been at the current location at 1310 North Main for about seven years. It started in his home and has moved several times over the years. Herron said each location has been better than the last.

Around 80 percent of businesses fail in the first five years, making Herron’s nearly 40-year run that much more of an accomplishment.

“I see it all the time – people go into business, but they don’t have the working capital to float the business,” he said. “It was still difficult when I quit and went full time, but probably not as difficult as it could have been.”

Herron had various factory jobs while he did the paint and body work on the side, but he didn’t enjoy them as much as he did his part-time work.

“I still love doing this; that’s what makes the difference,” he said. “Being able to take what you love and turn it into a job – I’m lucky I get to do something I enjoy.”

He also enjoys working with his family. Spend any time at the office, and you’ll hear references to “Senior” and “Junior” before long. Mike Jr. handles estimates and works in the office while another son, Jesse, works in the shop. Mike Sr. spends most of his time upstairs in his office. With nine employees, the body shop has grown to the point that just managing it is a full-time affair.

“If I had known what it took to run this body shop, I don’t know if I could have stood it,” Herron said. “The fact that I took it in small increments made the difference.”

In addition to a local businessman, he’s also known as something of a fisherman – good enough to compete in the FLW Everstart Series professional circuit, although he does not call himself a professional fisherman.

Herron started with some small, local fishing events before a friend who worked for him asked Herron to compete with him in a professional tournament. They did fairly well, and the friend asked him to go to another tournament in Mississippi in March 2005. Herron didn’t really want to go, but he didn’t want his friend to go alone. He wound up winning a new 19-foot boat.

“That got me hooked. I’ve been fishing ever since and have done fairly well,” he said. I never thought I’d be able to do that because of the expense. You have to win money to keep it up. I’ve been very fortunate.”

That has lead to some thinking Herron’s gone fishing a lot, but the Everstart Series only has four tournaments and a championship each year. When he goes, it’s usually for about a week and a half.

“The guys who fish the little weekend tournaments at Pat Mayse are gone more,” he said. “But when I go fishing, I go fishing.”

Herron has been involved with various boards and organizations over the years, particularly the Boys and Girls Club and the Uncle Jesse Big Bass Classic. He has served as tournament director for the event for more than 20 years since taking over for the first director, Randy Locke. Money raised from the tournament goes through Denver Pyle’s Children’s Charities, where Herron also serves on the board of directors. He estimated that 97 percent of the funds go back to help children. Which is the way Denver Pyle – known for his role as Uncle Jesse on “The Dukes of Hazzard” – wanted it.

“He wanted as much money as possible to go straight to those kids,and we do that. I’m proud of the organization,” Herron said. “There aren’t many organizations around the world that donate that much of their money back to kids.”

It’s difficult for an entrepreneur to find the time to spend so much effort helping others, but Herron said it’s a must.

“Nobody ever has the time,” he said. “If you’re gong to make a living off the community and have a business in town, I believe you need to give back to the community.”