Mike Pogojeff: Keeping it Local
By Matt Solis, Editor
ROHNERT PARK – Mike Pogojeff has been enjoying a successful career in the auto repair industry for more than two decades, but he didn’t always know he’d end up working on cars. In fact, Mike was on a different path altogether when he had an experience that would change his professional trajectory. “I took my car to a shop for some repairs, and I couldn’t believe how expensive it was,” he remembers. “I was actually working as a contractor at the time, and I wasn’t really enjoying myself. Once I stopped working in construction, I started fixing my own cars and doing a bit of repair work on the side. And it just took off from there. It wasn’t something I set out to do, but once I got into it, I realized auto repair was for me.”
Mike received his professional training at Indian Valley College in Novato, which offers an automotive program that’s only open to a handful of applicants. “I think there were 30 available spots for a couple hundred people when I got in,” he says. “After I graduated that program, I started working at an independent shop and eventually moved from dealership to dealership. One thing led to another and I decided to open my own shop. That’s how it’s been my whole career—I didn’t plan to get into auto repair, and I didn’t plan to start Automotive Excellence, but they both just happened. Twenty-five years later, here I am.”
A native of San Anselmo and resident of Rohnert Park since 1985, Mike says there are numerous positive aspects of living and working in the Bay Area—from the fantastic weather to the open-minded, friendly people—but there’s one thing he enjoys about living in the North Bay above all else. “My commute is about three miles each way, so it basically takes six minutes to get to and from work,” he laughs. “That’s definitely a great thing, but I love Rohnert Park in general. There are lots of parks and trees, and shopping is close no matter where you live in the city.”
Mike has Automotive Excellence to thank for more than just many years of professional success—he met his wife, Darlene, when she came into the shop looking to get her 1998 Prelude fixed. “She’s worked alongside me since we’ve been married, so it’s been great,” he says. “We have two kids—our daughter is studying movie set design at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in San Francisco, and our son is starting his second year at Santa Rosa Junior College.”
When he’s not working on cars and spending time with his family, Mike keeps active with various physical activities, including playing goalie on an indoor soccer team and training for triathlons. “I’ve probably done 100 triathlons over the years, and even though I haven’t competed in one in a while, I’m always swimming, biking and running,” he says. “In fact, I’m never in the shop on Wednesdays and Fridays between 11:30 and 1:00 because I’m swimming.”
For a man who didn’t have a definitive plan when he entered the auto repair industry, Mike has carved out quite a niche in his community, and he says that’s ultimately the glue that holds his business together. “Working on cars is pretty much the same wherever you are, but it’s the people in Rohnert Park that make the difference. I’ve lived and worked here for almost 30 years, so I’ve been able to develop important relationships with a lot of customers. That’s my favorite part about this job…besides the six-minute commute!”
Ask Me Anything!
Q: What’s your favorite sport?
A: Football. I follow the 49ers, but my favorite team is the Pittsburgh Steelers. I’ve been a Steelers fan since elementary school. I think it happened because I don’t like the Cowboys, and those two teams had some great rivalries in the ’70s.
Q: What’s your favorite music to listen to while driving?
A: Classic rock—Queen, Scorpions, AC/DC, stuff like that.
Q: If you could drive any car, what would it be?
A: Porsche 911 GT3. That’s my retirement car!
Q: What’s your favorite thing to do on a rainy day?
A: I actually like to go running in the rain. I find it refreshing. It’s sort of like swimming—even though you’re working hard and getting tired, you can’t tell when you’re sweating so you can keep going.
Q: What’s the strangest food you’ve ever eaten?
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A: Liver. My mom made it when I was a kid and I hated it.