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FARMINGTON — O'Neil Bileen has been an auto mechanic for many years, but he was never satisfied with working for someone else.

Now, having recently opened his own automotive repair shop, he is looking forward to growing his business and customer base.

Bileen is the owner of TC Auto Repair, which is housed in a small office and three-bay garage on West Apache Street.

"We put a lot of work into the office, because that's the first thing people will see," he said. "We painted, put in new floors, really wanted it to look nice."

The shop opened three weeks ago, and Bileen said he's gotten more business in that short amount of time than he expected.

"It's been busy, but I really like what I do," he said. "If you like what you do, it's not work."

Bileen, 31, decided to take a chance on opening his own shop after another plan fell through.

"I worked for Don Robbins Auto for about 10 years," he said. "I was supposed to take over that business, but that didn't work out."

Although he thought his dream of business ownership would be shut down after that disappointment, Bileen found he still had the drive to own his own shop, so he decided to strike out on his own.

The original name for his shop was Too Cool Auto Repair, he said.

"With spring just around the corner and the days getting warmer, I wanted to tap into the (auto) air conditioning market, so my girlfriend came up with the name Too Cool," he said. "But we're now in the process of changing the name to TC Auto Repair and have ordered new signs."

TC Auto Repair, Bileen said, offers any type of automotive repair service except for transmission, rear-end and body work.

"I can work on anything having to do with drivability, including brakes, suspension, electrical work and, of course, air conditioning," he said.

While the auto shop is a one-man operation, Bileen said he couldn't have gotten off the ground without the help of family and friends, some of whom continue to provide volunteer repair help.

"I thought I could do this all on my own, but I found out pretty quick that I needed help, and it was surprising how many people came through for me," he said. "My goal is to be able to grow the business so that I can start paying some of those who are helping me."

Bileen, who grew up in Fruitland, says business ownership has been his life-long dream, partly because his father was a business owner.

"My dad had the Penzoil Lube business in Shiprock," he said. "He had to make a business plan for a college class. He ended up following through on the plan, starting the business from the ground up. He had a lot of fun with it."

Even though he was a skilled mechanic, Bileen was frustrated that there were things about the automotive business he didn't know. So he decided to go back to school. In 2007, he graduated with honors from San Juan College with an associate degree in automotive technology, and went on to earn certificates in specific automotive specialties such as light line repair, automotive heavy line and electrical technology, and emissions and performance technology.

The college also provided guidance and resource information for Bileen as he was setting up his business through its Small Business Development Center, Bileen said.

"That information was really helpful to me," he said. "I also got a lot of good advice from my dad."

Because he's trying to get the word out about his business, Bileen said he's offering some of the lowest automotive repair rates in town. He also offers a special on air conditioning service for $39.95.

"I want to make things really easy for customers," he said. "For example, if they need a ride, I'll come pick them up — whatever makes it easier for them."

Bileen's girlfriend, Evelena Begay, said helping prepare the small office and shop for business was a labor of love.

"It came out pretty great," she said. "We all came together to work and paint, and it's just awesome that he now has his own business that he can run the way he wants."

TC Auto Repair, located at 1919 W. Apache St., is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends. More information can be found on the TC Auto Repair Facebook site, or by calling 505-592-8251.

Leigh Black Irvin is the business editor for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4621. 

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