Editor's Note: Welcome to a new weekly feature - a profile of someone living and thriving in Orillia. This feature will appear each Monday.
Local mechanic Mark Burrows says he goes to work every day with a smile on his face four decades into a long and satsifying career.
Burrows is the owner and founder of CMF Automotive Services on Atherley Road, which has been in business since 2009. The CMF acronym stands for ‘Call Mark First’, says the mechanic with more than 40 years of work in the automotive field.
While growing up in Chatham-Kent, Burrows was taught how to fix engines and appliance-related products by his father, who was an engineer.
“There weren’t too many things that he would send out the door to be fixed. We did mostly everything at home, and that’s what kind of started it for me,” Burrows explained.
“I started making go-karts out of lawnmowers, and then it progressed into a desire to get into this business.”
Burrows landed a job with General Motors (GM) back in the late 1970s and decided to specialize in vehicle electronics.
“Fuel injection was just around the corner, so it was perfect timing," he explained.
"GM specialized in electronics training courses, so I ended up becoming the shop foreman for the garage I was working in."
About 15 years-ago, Burrows decided he wanted to start a new life up north in Orillia, a community that holds a lot of nostalgia for the now 59-year-old.
“I have a lot of relatives here, and my ancestors settled in Oro many years ago, so I have a good connection here,” Burrows explained.
“As a child, I spent all my summers up here. My family had a cottage on Lake Simcoe, and in the winter we would come up to visit and stay with relatives. There is just something about the area and the vibe that makes it a wonderful place to live,” he explained.
When Burrows moved to Orillia the intention was to retire, but after taking a few years off from the automotive industry, he felt something was calling him back to action.
“I noticed this building on Atherley Road was for rent, and I thought, 'I have a lot of stuff, I think I want to get back into this and start my own operation.' I haven’t looked back since,” he said.
Burrows' love and passion for fixing cars was re-ignited when CMF opened its garage doors, and with his years of knowledge and experience, the business didn’t take long to find success.
Over the last couple of years, other local garages are sending their ‘problem child’ vehicles to Burrows to fix, which he enjoys.
“I’ve always loved it, I say it to the boys that work here and the customers: 'The day I stop having fun is the day is the day I’m out the door,'” he said.
“Every day we are learning new things here, we take the time to train ourselves and gather all the data and information that we need, and I don’t look at it as a challenge, but rather a new learning, which I enjoy.”
Away from being a mechanic, Burrows is a proud husband, father of four, and grandfather of ten. Burrows says he is well supported by his family with his passion.
“My family has been very supportive, my wife is behind me 100%. My family sees me as Dad and Grandpa, and also the guy who fixes their cars,” he said with a chuckle.
Burrows is looking forward to the day that he gets to share his passion with his grandchildren.
“They are still pretty young for that yet, but I will probably involve them as time goes on. I’m sure there are a couple of them who will want to find a summer job with grandpa, and I’m excited for that,” he said.
But for now, Burrows works alongside three full-time employees who are also like family to him; all of his employees except for one started their automotive careers with Burrows through the co-op program.
“It’s always nice to mould your employees to the way you want to run the business, and it’s seamless if you treat the guys like family, it creates a friendly environment all the way around,” he said.
Burrows also aims at treating his customers like family. Trust and loyalty are traits that he doesn't take for granted.
“We build one-on-one relationships with our customers, we take the time to explain everything, that way there is no misconceptions,” Burrows explained.
“Because of that, I don’t have customers calling and complaining, it just doesn’t happen. It really is seamless when you treat your customers like family.”
One of the biggest contributors to fuelling Burrows’ passion for the automotive industry is the reaction that he gets from his customers after helping them solve their vehicle problems.
“I get a real kick when customers come by to drop off coffee, or they give us that phone call to say thanks, or you get that card in the mail,” Burrows said.
“My love for this job isn’t so much what I do at the job, but more so the impact that it can have on someone.”
Burrows says one day he will hand the keys to the business over to his shop foreman, Jay, but he is in no rush to walk away from the business and he plans on coming to work every day, as long as he’s always having fun.
“I don’t have an end date yet, but eventually, I will want to take the time to smell the roses,” Burrows said.