by Lee Gutowski
(Maybe you’ve heard the buzz: Riverwest’s Manyo Motors is moving from their space at 909 E. Locust Street. But, don’t worry, faithful customers! Their new location is a mere 2 miles – a 5 minute drive – from their current place. Meanwhile, the business will keep operating out of their current location through mid-to-late January, at which time they will move the whole shebang over to 4035 N. Green Bay Avenue, at Capitol Drive.)
“Sometimes it’s like old home week here,” Janet Conley says about Manyo Motors, the auto repair shop on the corner of Locust and Bremen Streets, where she’s worked since the business opened in the fall of 2012. She’s referring to the busy hum of activity in the shop, spurred on by loyal customers, old and new. Sitting in the worn, yet cozy, front office, one is reminded of the barbershop-as-meeting-place culture of yore. Have a cup of coffee while you wait, and chat up a fellow patron, who could be a Riverwest neighbor or someone who’s been bringing their cars to Manyo for years and still drives in from further-flung burgs.
As old adages have mentioned, time marches on, and changes everything. The building Manyo Motors started in was recently sold to Black Husky Brewing, which plans to open a craft brewery there after doing major renovations to the 7,000 sq. ft. space. By mid-to-late January, Manyo Motors hopes to be fully relocated to the 8,400 sq. ft. building that owner Dave Manyo recently bought at 4035 N. Green Bay Ave. (and Capitol Drive). Manyo and crew are busy planning the move and all the changes that come with it, while simultaneously keeping their doors open and their customers happy.
Conley (who goes by Jan), a Riverwest native, is the office manager at Manyo – or “more like Dave’s gal Friday,” she chuckles. She’s also the sister of Joe Fix, who owned Joe’s East Coast Car Shop (also known as Joe’s Auto Repair). She worked at Joe’s and lived in the building at the corner of Center and Pierce Streets that housed it. The building was also a beloved home to apartments, artist studios and gallery spaces. It was gutted in a 5-alarm fire on July 17, 2012. Everyone got out safely, but unfortunately endured heartbreaking losses of irreplaceable artwork, their homes and their livelihoods.
Dave Manyo has been working on cars professionally since he was 18. “I taught myself a lot,” says Manyo, “but I also went through an associate’s degree program at MATC,” to deepen his knowledge of the trade. He plied his trade for 7 years at Heiser Lincoln Mercury, then decided to go into business for himself. In 2000, he bought a Matco Tools franchise.
A long-time friend of Joe Fix, Manyo had been a regular fixture in Joe’s shop. “He used to stop by Joe’s at least once a week and the guys would buy tools from him,” recalls Jan. After the 2012 fire that decimated Joe’s Auto Repair, a big void opened up in the neighborhood for that service.
“I moved in here (Locust and Bremen) in November 2011 just to use it as a hobby shop – I wasn’t even planning on doing a business out of here,” explains Dave. But his good friend (and Jan’s brother) Joe Fix had died in 2011, leaving Joe’s East Coast Auto to make do without its namesake.
Less than a year later, when the fire decimated what was left of Joe’s, Manyo made another business decision. “In September 2012, I hired Jan and Hector (Ibarra, a mechanic) and started the repair business out of this location. Once Joe’s was gone, there was a void in the neighborhood” for that service.
“There were a ton of old customers I had to track down, which was tricky since we lost everyone’s contacts in the fire,” Jan adds. “I went all over putting up fliers and just hanging out at places so I could hopefully bump into people. I eventually did find quite a few of them.”
Dave Manyo was still running his Matco Tools franchise. Meanwhile, business at Manyo Motors started out brisk and continued to grow. “By 2014, I had to walk away from the tool business, since this place got so busy,” he says. A second mechanic was hired, as well as a “helper to do oil changes and tires and stuff.” Not long after, the third mechanic was hired.
All of Manyo’s employees – Jan and Hector (mentioned above) as well as mechanics Joseph Kreuser, Erick Rodriguez and Doug Davis — will make the move with Dave.
“We have more than enough work currently to support 3 mechanics,” Manyo says, “and sometimes I even have to turn away work because everyone’s booked. So I want to hire another mechanic once we’re in the new space. Four of ‘em should be perfect for now.”
Manyo is installing a new alignment machine in the new location, as well as a couple of brand new, U.S. made lifts for the garage. “We’re going to be able to do a lot more work out of the bigger space,” Dave continues. “I’ve been thinking about getting my dealer’s license, too, so I can sell cars there eventually.” Turns out, the old Jenkins site was a used car lot back in the day. Which reminds one of another adage … about the more things change, the more they stay the same.
“It’s been great being in Riverwest,” Manyo says. “I tried to find something here in the neighborhood to move the business into, but what we needed just wasn’t available. Turns out the Jenkins building not only has what we need, but I was able to buy it.”
“Supporting the neighborhood that supports us is important,” he concludes. “Last year we were one of the sponsors for the Riverwest 4th of July celebration, and I plan to keep doing that sort of thing, staying connected to the neighborhood.”
Make sure to check out the new website, Manyo-Motors.com. You can also keep up with them via Facebook at Manyo Motors LLC.