McPhersonSentinel - McPherson, KS
  • Vintage vehicle shop earns its keep

  • “One good job earns another one.”
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  • “One good job earns another one.”
    That’s the business philosophy of Steven Maslanka, also known as Maz, the owner/manager of Maz’s Main Street Machines, LLC, 519 B N. Main St. (accessible off of West Hill Street), a restoration business for vintage cars.
    Maz has worked at the current location since his McPherson College days, starting as an employee for another owner in 2007. In 2009, the year Maz graduated with his Auto Restoration degree, the owner moved to another state, asking Maz and other employees to move with him, but by then Maz had personal ties to McPherson and chose to stay.
    His options appeared to be to work for another auto shop, work outside his chosen profession, or go into business for himself. He chose the third option and opened his shop in November of that year.
    Love of cars runs in his blood, from working with his dad to remembering his grandfather, who was head mechanic for a Studebaker dealership. A framed photo in Maz’s office shows his grandparents standing in front of his grandfather’s Studebaker wrecker.
    Things have changed since that Studebaker business thrived. According to statistics published by the Small Business Administration, three out of 10 new employer establishments don’t survive two years, and 49 percent don’t make it five years.
    In the first four months, Maz spent considerable time setting up. He worked on newer vehicles, but that wasn’t the trade he was interested in.
    “I did more of that than I wanted to,” Maz said. His interest lies in working with vintage cars. “I love cars and mechanics, but not modern mechanics. I came out here [to the Auto Restoration program] because of my passion for old things. I restored my first tractor with my dad when I was 12 or 13.”
    The first “real” customer came on the scene in March 2010. That turned the corner, and Maz’s shop has only worked on older vehicles since then.
    Beginning with a part-time helper, Maz now has three employees, all Auto Restoration program graduates. His clientele has expanded from the people who met him initially as an employee while he was still in college to the word of mouth from satisfied customers.
    “We’re still building clientele,” he said. “I don’t think you ever stop.”
    He credits customers for much of the new trade, saying, “There’s no ad that I can get that would bring in more business than a completed project.”
    Between mechanical work, body work and 100 percent whole-vehicle restorations, Maz has turned over nine completed projects since he began in 2010. In the regular auto world, that would be unacceptable, but the cars Maz’s shop sees are generally registered as antiques. They’re not the vehicles hauling people to work each day, nor the type people get a ding in and take for a quick spruce-up until they can trade the car in for a newer model.
    Page 2 of 3 - These are collectibles, family members, a nostalgic dream car, a bucket list item. These are the vehicles owners want to see made original or like original from top to bottom.
    “There’s no fiberglassing over rust holes here,” Maz said. “My shop is for the luxury item.”
    As such, Maz has turned down job possibilities from people who asked him to compromise.
    “There’s a standard I feel I need to uphold. Folks who want to go cheap can find someone who’ll do that for them,” he said. That standard reflects back on his maxim of one good job earning another one: His shop’s work has to reflect that standard, because that’s his calling card. As such, Maz’s shop sponsors and does judging for area car shows, such as the recent Rolling Hills Zoo benefit and a Lindsborg show.
    The oldest vehicle he’s restored was a 1931 Model A Ford; the most challenging, a 1948 Ford pickup that came in completely demolished.
    “The 1948 was the first year for that body style,” Maz said. “As such, it’s really hard to find some parts for it. It might be six months to get some items. We’ve replaced the front fenders, the bed, the floor; there’ve been hours and hours of metal work on it. We’ve had it here for three years. It’s just about ready to go home.”
    Attention to detail is the name of the game, as is accommodating the owner’s tastes, which may vary from the initial standard options of the vehicle. The pickup in question is a dream machine, a juicy cherry red with leather interior to match that of the owner’s current ride, and chrome, chrome, chrome.
    Initially, love of old cars brought Maz to this business. What keeps him here and makes it fun to come to work is “doing the job the way I’d want it done as a customer. I ask what I can do the best every day.” Job satisfaction hinges on meeting personal standards, but also on seeing the pleasure on a client’s face when they turn over a completed work.
    In keeping with that desire to turn out a superior product, Maz’s favorite car to work on thus far has been a 1970 Camaro SS, because it was the first unibody construction vehicle he’d dealt with. The shop did paint, body and panel repair.
    “We got a lot of experience working on that car,” Maz said. “We had to replace several parts and learned a lot from it. Three years later, the owner is still winning awards with that car.”
    Page 3 of 3 - His other reason for it’s being a favorite project was working with the client.
    A dream project would be working on a rare item, though he found it hard to nail it down to one particular car or era, as “there are too many great ones!”
    But if forced to single one out, he’d choose something he hasn’t dealt with.
    “Say, a ‘33 or ‘34 Studebaker Dictator, the whole thing, inside and out,” Maz said. “When you are responsible for everything, you know that the quality is consistent.”
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