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Lucky Breaks

Mobile mechanic, going for broke, Beanie Baby boom.

The crash of breaking glass is bad news for most people, but music to the ears of Bill Marhoefer, 46, and his wife, Michelle, 39. That's because repairing fumbled figurines and shattered sculptures is bread and butter for the owners of Broken Art Restoration.

All the pieces started coming together in the early 1980s when Bill, a graduate of the Art Institute of Chicago, apprenticed with an artist who specialized in repairing and restoring antique art objects. In the two years Bill worked there, his mentor had only one client--a large Chicago antique dealership--but that one client's steady stream of business kept the art restorers both busy and profitable.

Realizing a larger market for this type of service existed, Bill borrowed $1,000 from his father and opened the business with Michelle in 1980. The couple brought in business by canvassing Chicago antique dealers. Within a few weeks, they had such a backlog of clients that their average turnaround time to repair a piece is now eight months.

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