AZTEC — A couple from Farmington, Michigan, have overcome the ravages of recession to find their passion in a new business in Aztec.

Mike and Vikki Flanary opened their small-engine repair shop, Mike's ATVs, on Ash Street last month. He and two assistant technicians do repairs, restorations, and complete builds. Vikki runs the office duties and website.

The repair shop sits on a 7-acre unpaved parcel downwind of City Hall. Their two Louisiana Catahoula Leopard dogs, Boo Boo and Binx, are the couple's adoptive children, patrolling the shop for a willing playmate or pat on the head.

Getting to their current digs wasn't easy, but the couple, who have been married for 22 years, tackle life with a disciplined drive and a lot of heart.

"Vikki has the tenacity of a bull" Mike said. "She doesn't give up on anything. Not even me!"

Vikki said that she has always been motivated to take life by the handlebars and ride each challenge to a first-place finish.

And Mike loves the fruits of his labor.

There's simply no drug invented that can compare with the feeling of catching air on a bike," Mike said. "Or the satisfaction when I first start up a bike after I have completed a repair on it. And the Four Corners is ideal for my idea of outside play."

But life isn't all play. The couple has made a lot of sacrifices, which is just fine with them.

The couple credits their longevity to the support of family and friends, and lots of hard work. And a little luck, too.


Advertisement

After they lost their Detroit-area home to foreclosure in 2006, the Flanarys suddenly faced the unknown.

"We were one of Countrywide's many victims," Mike said. "Over 10,000 homes in our area were foreclosed in one month's time. Everything came crashing down."

By August of that year, the couple's construction business had closed.

Mike had bouts of depression. They both began working a series of odd jobs. Then Vikki fell and broke her elbow in two places. She lost her job. The couple even separated for six months.

"Eventually you figure out that you just can't live without each other," Mike said.

But with the encouragement of Vikki's mother, the couple left family and friends behind to pursue their dream of small-business ownership.

"She told us, Don't stay here waiting for me to die. Get out there and live now get going,'" Vikki said.

At the invitation of a cousin, the Flanarys fled their home state in 2007 for sunny Phoenix.

"Mike had two jobs within one week of arriving," Vikki said. "But both jobs went belly up not long after."

At age 45, Mike was uncertain school was the answer. Vikki encouraged him.

So on the couple's 20th wedding anniversary, Mike began an 18-month program at a mechanics institute in Phoenix.

He got Pell grants and took out student loans, but 18 months later, Mike was a certified motorcycle-engine technician with coveted "student of course" honors and a nearly 4.0 GPA.

"The school trained us to be just good enough to be dangerous," Mike said. "But, honestly, I have learned more in the last year running my own shop than all of my schooling because if you're not making mistakes breaking stuff you're not learning."

Tribulation was never a stranger to the Flanarys. Not long after high school, Mike lost two fingers to a circular saw while apprenticing for a carpenter. Like the legendary jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt who lost two fingers in an accident, the missing digits make little difference.

Through it all, the couple, now in their late-40s, take each day as an opportunity to grow and to have fun when possible.

Mike happily cedes all major financial decisions to his wife and business partner. Vikki recently cancelled their cell phones to save money. Vikki works the morning shift at Blake's Lotaburger. Even with the economy steadily picking up, the Flanarys keep a vigilant eye on the bottom line.

But with business pouring in from people who see Mike racing around in front of the shop on an ATV or from the many photos of grinning customers straddling their newly repaired bikes that Vikki adds daily to their website, the couple are hoping that Aztec proves to be a perfect fit.

"The harder I work, the better my husband will do," Vikki said. "And then maybe I'll be able to retire!"