MARTINS FERRY - Keeping a business running in the Ohio Valley for over 60 years is no easy task, but if your business is around that long, you know you must be doing something right.
Founded by Mike McKaye, Mike's Seat Cover Center has been the go-to place in the area for quite some time when it comes to replacing and repairing automotive upholstery. In fact, several local collision repair centers do not even bother with the upholstery; they just send it to Mike's.
"I would say 1950 is when he started to do this," Tim McKaye - the business's current owner - said about his father, Mike. "He started with an old Singer sewing machine, which I still use today sometimes, and an old Model-A car." Tim explained that his father got the idea for the business from a discussion with his neighbor. "He started this from nothing."
The business truly began in the old Nickels Bakery garage and soon after moved to South Wheeling. It later shifted locations to 17th Street and again to East Wheeling. After the garage there was sold, the business moved to Martins Ferry (Tim's hometown), where it has been for over ten years.
Tim began working part-time at the business in 1968 when it was on 17th Street in Wheeling, giving him well over 40 years of experience in the field. He started full-time in 1972.
"(I started out) just helping to tear stuff apart, and one day I sat down behind the machine and started sewing stuff," Tim said. "The first thing I did was a peace sign. That gives you an idea of how long ago it was. (Mike) showed me how to thread the machine, and I was on my own from there - hands-on learning. He'd show me little tricks here and there, but for the most part I was on my own.
"(Mike) is the one who started doing this, and since then, it has grown into what it is now," Tim said. "I'm a second generation, and I might be the last." Tim explained that his field is sort of a dying art, and that everyone he has tried to teach the skill to has not taken to it. "You have to know how to do it all. You have to do convertibles, headliners, sewing. You've got to be able to do it all if you're going to run a business, and that's what I do now."
For the last few months, Tim has been working on completing a job for a coal mining company. He has been replacing the seats on myriad of the mine's shuttlecars, which take workers into and out of the mines. Tim explained that he replaces both the seat covers and adds new ergonomic foam for comfort.
In addition to the coal mine project, Tim also does a lot of work for individuals - mostly automotive projects, although he used to do a lot of work with boat covers as well. Most of the work he does is custom, although he does a lot of restoration projects on the interiors of classic cars also.
Tim explained that he can get any kind and color of fabric his customers desire and craft it into a custom seat cover, whether for a car or motorcycle. "I do a lot of bike seat covers," he said. "A lot of custom work and custom interiors.
"This is an interesting business because it's a fading business. It's fading away. There are not too many people who do this anymore. Mike's Seat Cover is still around. We're still in business, and I'm probably going to do it for another ten years or so. It's been a profitable business. I really enjoy what I do. I start with nothing and make something of it. It's an art form, more or less."
Mike's Seat Cover Center is located at 57060 Mika Dr. in Martins Ferry, just off of State Route 647. For more information, please call (740) 633-0938.
Scott can be reached at email@example.com.