Wayne Greene talks about the career path that led to working for himself, fixing small engines in a shop in Madison. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchie/kritchie@madisoncourier.com)
Wayne Greene talks about the career path that led to working for himself, fixing small engines in a shop in Madison. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchie/kritchie@madisoncourier.com)
Wayne Greene has owned his repair shop, Greene's Small Engine Service, for more than 20 years, but he's always loved working on machines.

Greene said that since he was a child he and his friends would tinker with whatever machine parts they could get their hands on.

"My dad would come home and ask where the wheels on the mower were. Me and the neighborhood kids would have taken them off and built something with them," he said.

He grew up working on his family farm and moved into construction when he got a little older.

In 1982, he was in a motorcycle accident that broke both legs in several places and one of his knee caps. He still has metal pins in his legs. His arms, chest and face were cut and bruised, but no lasting damage was caused. The crash left Greene wheelchair bound for several months, and he was unable to work.

"A woman contacted me. She was with an organization trying to get people back to work. They set me up with a guy in Vevay. He had a (small engine repair) shop up there."

Greene started working for Ed Leatherman, the shop owner, in 1985 and eventually took over managing the store.

"I ran it for him for several years. He decided to retire. He had had enough of it and decided to relax," Greene said.

Eventually the store hit tough times and had to close. Greene was laid off and once again had no place else to go.

He started his own small engine repair shop in 1989 in his garage. His business was a side job until 1992, when he decided to make a go of it full time.

"I had no way to make a living, other than what I knew," he said. "I started out in a little 8-by-10 building and just progressively had to add on a little bit with time."

Even though Greene had run a repair shop for a time, his new job still came with a different set of challenges.

"I'd ran that shop over there for him for three or four years and I paid all the bills for that shop and ordered all the parts and supplies. But it is different when you work for yourself and you have a nice piece of lawn equipment and something goes bad. You don't have the boss to fall back on. You have to take care of it yourself," Greene said. "I've been pretty fortunate. You can't make everybody happy, but we do our best."

He also said that, when you work for yourself, you don't always get a paycheck every week.

"We try to put money back every month for the slow times. Usually by the end of March things pick up again," he said. "Even though I handled the money and paid the bills, I didn't have to worry about when we were short. I'd call Mr. Leatherman and he'd take care of it. But here, I have nobody to call except myself or my wife. And then she tells me to get busy."

Greene's Small Engine Service mostly repairs riding mowers but they also work on chain saws, push mowers, weed whackers and almost anything else with a small engine.

"We do a lot of trimmer work too. Anything to make a dollar that's honest."

Greene says most of his customers are return customers. So, he does all he can to keep them happy and coming back.

"When I repair something for you, I don't care if it's $10 or $400, I explain to you when you come to pick it up, what we've done. People like to know what they're paying for," he said. "They feel like they're getting their money's worth when you explain it to them. It's good customer relations when you do that."

When business picks up in the spring and summer months, Greene will bring in some extra help. Roger Lewis has been working for him since 2001, which leaves Greene free to run deliveries.

The extra hands help, because Greene's legs still cause him pain.

He says he was fortunate to survive the accident, but by 2 p.m. most days his legs are spent.

"I try to set things up where I don't have to reach or walk too far. You get more done that way."

Despite his chronic leg pains, Greene says he'll probably work until "I fall over."

He says he's not one to just sit around the house and that not a day goes by without him going into the garage and working on something. Despite his almost workaholic tendencies, Greene makes time for a yearly vacation.

"You've got to take a vacation," Greene said." Once a year. Even if it's just a day or two. Take some time for yourself. You'll get burnt out if you don't."