M&S Total Truck and Auto Works is up and running in tiny Manchester
Published 12:05 pm Sunday, March 1, 2009
The cab of a 1939 Chevy pickup sits detached from its engine and chassis, in the early stages of restoration. Nearby, a late model minivan sits beneath a 9,000-pound capacity hoist, waiting for repair so its owner can get back onto the snowy roads of southern Minnesota.
The two vehicles, old and new, represent different facets of M&S Total Truck Auto Works, a Manchester-based auto repair and restoration center owned by Steve and Connie Messiah. Taking over a former blacksmith shop on the north side of town in June of this year, the Messiahs have seen their business grow steadily over the past several months to the point where they say there’s never a dull moment.
A 1980 graduate of Albert Lea High School with a degree in auto body repair from Dunwoody Institute, Steve Messiah operated his own auto body shop in the Twin Cities. When he needed a pinstripe and airbrush specialist for his business, in through the door strolled Connie. They married 23 years ago and have a son, who they hope might join them in their business some day.
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Steve worked for Stephens Buick and Freightliner in Albert Lea, and jumped at the chance to build a new business with his wife in Manchester. They currently lease their building and have added equipment as opportunity has presented itself. A friend in Emmons had purchased a building there, which came equipped with a hoist that the new owner had no use for.
“We were able to move it in here and now we use it every day. It’s been a great addition to our business,” Steve Messiah said.
A paint booth is another feature of M & S. A 1979 Chevy Camaro sits in the booth now, awaiting work on its restoration. The business utilizes arc, gas and metal intergas welding techniques, as part of both the repair and restoration operations. Rebuilt auto parts are acquired through Misgen Auto Parts of Ellendale. New parts and accessories are purchased from NAPA and Carquest of Albert Lea.
“We try to buy from area businesses whenever we can,” Steve Messiah said.
M & S does transmission work as part of its general repair business. Eight to ten vehicles are repaired in an average week, Connie Messiah said. She mans the phones, orders parts and does general office work, in addition to helping her husband with the repair and restoration of vehicles.
M & S gets much of it’s trade from area towns and farms, in addition to some from Albert Lea.
The 14-foot doors on the building’s south side enable M&S to move the big rigs indoors for needed repairs. While only a small part of the overall business right now, the Messiahs say they think working on trucks shows great promise for the future.
The blacksmith who ran his shop out of the building for 40 years, Dick Kath, now works with the Messiahs in their auto and truck repair business.
Steve Messiah has built drag racing cars and admits that it’s the rebuilding and restoration work on classic vehicles that is his real specialty. The 1939 Chevy pickup was rescued from a farmer’s field near Jackson. Next to it sits a 1963 Chevrolet which sat in a barn for 15 years before an area farmer asked the Messiahs to take it on as a restoration project.
While their is a lot of hard work to be done, and Connie Messiah displays a small sign in the shop labeled “Welcome to the House of Pain” she says she enjoys working in Manchester.
“It’s a small community, but these are very good people. It’s nice to be away from the big city.”
The Messiahs have been pleasantly surprised by how welcoming Manchester has been to them.
“We have gone to town hall meetings, and you never know how you’ll be treated, as outsiders. But everyone comes up to us and welcomes us to town. These are really nice people,” Connie Messiah said.