Mike Wort said that his business is MJW Wheels. The name is based on his initials. He explained that the business is a wheel reconditioning business. “I fix curb damaged wheels that are carved or scraped up. I go to dealerships in Springfield, Taylorville, Jacksonville, Peoria, and Decatur.”
MJW Wheels is a veteran owned business. In the Army/National Guard, Mike Wort served as a Blackhawk Helicopter Crew Chief. He was a Door Gunner in Iraq. This position was also as a mechanic. “I flew 750 hours while there,” Mike shared.
Using his mechanical skills, Mike went on to be an airplane mechanic at MidCoast Aviation near St. Louis. Although the job was a great fit, working nights and driving to and from Pawnee was not. “I was working on corporate jets, and I had to tape off and seal panels, so that’s how I knew how to do the paint section,” Mike said about the job he would later have and love.
The night shift, the drive, and the fact that his wife Amy was expecting their first child all lead up to the decision that he needed something closer to home. “I was looking for a job closer to home, but I couldn’t find anything, then I saw this franchise, Wheelguard and it looked good. Amy was six months pregnant with our oldest son Carson. I had a guy come talk to me, and I knew I could make it work.”
Working on his own was not an issue, in fact that was part of the lure of this job. “I don’t have to be motivated by someone else. Growing up, I always have had a strong work ethic.”
“I have worked with my hands all my life,” Mike shared. “I worked at my grandpa’s Shell Station in Mt. Sterling. It was one of the last full-service stations around, so I learned a lot from him and working with tools. Carson is 15 now, so I have been working as a subcontractor with Wheelguard for 15 years now. They supply me with the paint and supplies.”
Mike is still on the road, but his driving is local. “I drive 35,000 miles a year,” Mike said. “I basically work with used cars. I look for damaged wheels. I go to used car managers or the General Manager and ask them if they want the wheels fixed or not. That’s all part of the reconditioning so they get the most money out of the car.”
This is a very precise process. Mike shared, “I grind out the damage on the wheel, then sand it out, and blend it in with paint.”
It took a while for the business to get going. The first step was getting the dealerships on board. “I had to get the dealerships,” Mike said.
While the franchise had a few they had been working with already, it was up to Mike to set up the arrangement. “When I first started the first two to three years, I was working 12-14 hours. I told them what I did and what I could fix and what I can’t. Rims are part of the most expensive part to replace. A damaged wheel just doesn’t look very good. Now days, customers are just looking at cosmetics, they can’t see the mechanics.”
Pawnee is the homebase for MJW Wheels. The Worts ended up here Mike said when Amy was going to school. It was a good place to land when she was attending University of Illinois at Springfield for her BA then going to Edwardsville for her MA. Mike and Amy also liked the Springfield area for her social work career. “Pawnee has worked out very well, we like the small-town area,” Mike shared.
Pawnee has been a good fit for the Worts and their three boys as well. They have Carson 15, Hudson 13, and Pierson 11. All three boys are active in sports and school activities.
Before coming to Pawnee, both Mike and Amy grew up in Mt Sterling. The couple were high school sweethearts and married in July of 2002. “We just had out 20th anniversary and celebrated in Hawaii,” Mike shared.
MJW Wheels is active in the Pawnee community supporting local sports. “Every year we donate to the Pawnee baseball, we do banners and help with the football dinners and more,” Mike said.
To reach Mike at MJW Wheels, call him at 217-638-8393. He may be on the road, but he will get back to you soon!