Lucky Breaks

Mobile mechanic, going for broke, Beanie Baby boom.
Magazine Contributor
3 min read

This story appears in the July 1998 issue of . Subscribe »

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.

Making Change

Brad Klein knows what it's like to be in a hurry. As the father of two young children and owner of two businesses--a valet parking business and a company that supplies bartenders and servers for parties and events--Klein is always on the go. That's what gave him the idea for yet a third business: Oil Valet, a Houston mobile oil-change company.

"We're in a society where everything is instant," says Klein, 36, explaining the appeal of his newest venture. "There's drive-thru food, e-mail and faxes, and everyone's putting in longer and longer days [at work]. Speaking for myself, I don't have time to waste a Saturday in a garage waiting for an oil change."

Klein, who uses a mobile trailer to transport equipment and mechanics, began by offering the service to customers of his valet parking service, which serves several office buildings, in July 1997. "The response has been tremendous," says Klein--so tremendous, he now also offers mobile oil changes to tenants of select high-rent apartment complexes in the Houston area.

Magic Beans

Bethany Lovegrove, 30, had been enchanted by Beanie Babies since the stuffed beanbag animals' debut in 1993. But when she saw collectors shelling out hundreds of dollars at a local mall for hard-to-find Beanies, she knew there must be a way to make more than beans in the thriving market for the toys.

A full-time administrative assistant for a large company in Alpharetta, Georgia, Lovegrove didn't have the time or money to open her own Beanie retail location. Instead, with some assistance from her husband, David, 29, a former Web designer, she put up a Web site, Bethany's Beanies, in summer 1997, to provide news and rumors for Beanie fans--and offer Beanies for sale.

"I knew Beanie Babies and David knew Web design, so we put our knowledge together," says Bethany. "We'd seen the way people took to Beanies--when McDonald's put them in Happy Meals, people would buy the meals and throw away the food just to get the Beanie--so we knew there was a market here."

The site attracted so many customers, the Lovegroves were forced to cut down on graphics to make more space for ads and listings. Now convinced of the long-term investment potential of Beanie Babies--Bethany has bought and sold more than 1,000 of the toys--David is writing a book on the subject.

Contact Sources

Bethany's Beanies,

Broken Art Restoration, 1841 W. Chicago Ave., Chicago, IL 60622, (815) 472-3900

Oil Valet, 2400 Augusta, #185, Houston, TX 77057, (713) 266-7275.

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