In 1940, a Ford factory-trained mechanic from Kansas named Merle "Smitty" Smith moved to San Diego with his wife Edith. Before WWII broke out, he worked as the Foreman of Electrical Maintenance for the aircraft manufacturing company known as Convair. As the men on his shift were drafted to the war they were replaced by very capable women. Eventually his entire staff was female.
During the war people did not make significant investments because they were never sure if their number would be called. Being a proud American, he checked his draft status with the Army recruiter’s office. He was quietly told that he would not be drafted because Convair needed a high level of continuity in his position to assist in the war effort. This information gave Smitty a competitive advantage. In 1945 he had an opportunity to purchase a Rio Grande Gas and Oil station. Through the end of the war he worked Monday through Friday at Convair. On weekends he was the mechanic on Oregon and Adams.
It wasn’t long before he gained a reputation as an honest mechanic who delivered the best possible work at reasonable prices. Over the years he sold gas as Richfield and then ARCO but what kept them coming back was Smitty’s Service.
As a young man Mike Magers worked summer jobs at Smitty’s doing odd jobs and simple mechanical services. His "apprenticeship" with Smitty was the foundation for the next chapter of Smitty’s Service.
It wasn’t until 1987 that Mike officially started his career at Smitty’s Service. Mike earned his degree at night while attending Smitty's "school of hard knocks" by day. The two worked side by side, seven and later six days a week for years. As it turned out, Mike shared Smitty’s passion for automotive excellence and customer satisfaction.
In 1989 Mike bought a house down the street and raised his kids in Normal Heights. This commitment prompted him to get involved locally– he served as President of Adams Elementary PTA, Normal Heights Planning Committee, Vice President of the Safe Neighborhoods and President of the Adams Avenue Business Association for many, many years.
Unfortunately Smitty passed away in 1996 but Grandpa's spirit lives through Mike as he continues his legacy.
Smitty’s is San Diego’s oldest family-run automotive repair facility. Mikes wife Deborah does the banking, and his oldest son Enrique is the Office Manager.