Remembering Mike Weinzierl

The Ely area lost a special person this past week when Mike Weinzierl drowned in a boating accident on Fall Lake. He was coming back from a day of fishing on Basswood, a trip he had made hundreds of times. Something went wrong and Mike didn’t make it home.
More than a successful business owner, Mike was an accomplished pilot, a great musician and a wonderful family man. His passing was a shot to the heart for the people who were fortunate enough to have known him.
We sat down with one of his former employees, Bob Artisensi, who was willing to share some of his memories with Echo readers.
Bob was the salesman and the face of Mike Motors for 19 years. That was okay with Mike and Jim Weinzierl, the owners of the company. They had a unique ability to allow employees to succeed.
“Mike was the kind of guy who believed in everybody. He gave everyone a fair chance, but you had to prove yourself. If you didn’t prove yourself, you weren’t there,” said Bob.
That led to long-time, loyal employees who were rewarded by Mike. When Bernie Urbas, a long-time mechanic retired, he drove home in a new pick-up truck made possible by his boss.
“That’s just one example. He always cared for his employees. Even when the mines were striking or shut down, Mike was always one of those who thought the glass was half full.”
That philosophy carried over to selling cars and trucks.
“‘You make a little bit on every deal,’ Mike would say, ‘You don’t get rich on this.’ It was his belief you always treated everybody with respect. He always said it had to be a livable deal. The customer’s got to feel good about it and you have to make a little bit on it.
“His words when I started were, ‘Never, never dig in the customer’s pockets. Be fair, no home run deals. Try to keep everybody happy,” said Bob.
That philosophy worked well for Mike Motors, a dealership in a small town that would often outsell dealerships in larger cities.
Leading by example was one of the keys to that success.
“He put the key in the door every morning at 7:30, he never went out for a cup of coffee. He watched over everything and had a good thumb on his business. He put the key in again at five o’clock.”
Artisensi said he took more time off than Mike and Jim did in the years he worked there.
“Mike was proud of the name on the Mike Motors sign. He grew a successful business by being a great example for us to follow.”
Mike was a private guy, not one to be in the public limelight. He served on boards and committees but wasn’t one to brag or exaggerate.
“Those of us who worked for Mike and Jim learned to respect their hard work and dedication to the business. We all enjoyed going to work every day. Mike exuded good business sense and all of us felt secure with our job and the future of Mike Motors,” said Bob.
The two brothers were good partners in the business.
“Mike was all serious, Jimmy was the other side, he made you laugh. Mike laid the groundwork and Jimmy made it fun. I don’t think one could have made it in the business without the other one. Jimmy handled the service department and Mike handled the overall picture. The two were good for each other. It wouldn’t have been Mike Motors without the two of them.”
Artisensi said people who didn’t do business with Mike Motors missed out on dealing with a first class man.
“Mike was an honest person who lived by the golden rule. He would do his best to treat customers such as he would like to be treated. Mike would put his trust out to many customers. He would say, ‘Here, take the car home for the weekend, stop back next week and we’ll finish the deal then.’ Where do you buy something today and not pay for it first?”
For Bob Artisensi, a job at Mike Motors made for a better life.
“My career was graced with the opportunity to work with so many wonderful customers. Customers who became friends and friends who became lifelong friends. My choice to work hard, just like Mike and Jim, afforded me many opportunities.
“Having a great role model like Mike made this journey much easier and more enjoyable. But most people don’t get the opportunity to have a such a great role model in their life.”
Funeral services for Mike Weinzierl were held Saturday at St. Anthony’s Catholic Church at 11 a.m.