BEST MECHANIC - Rich Fitzgerald, Fitzgerald Motors - For Rich Fitzgerald, fixing up cars is a way of life that began when his father, an automobile dealer, brought home a couple of beat-up cars for him and his brother to play with. Fitzgerald was five years old at the time. He's been at it ever since.
"That's what I've always had, cars," says Fitzgerald, now 60.
After 30 years fixing cars for a couple of local dealerships, Fitzgerald bought an empty Phillips gas station on North Ash 17 years ago this month and started Fitzgerald Motors. The shop, with its three mechanics, handles most any kind of automobile repair except automatic transmission work, says Fitzgerald.
Though he's worked on and raced all kinds of vehicles -- the shelf above the shop's front room is cluttered with trophies for stock car racing and demolition driving -- Fitzgerald holds a soft spot for 1950s Chevrolets. He's restored several. His pride is a '58 Impala he hauled home from a wrecking yard, where it had weathered and rusted for years. Now black and shiny with chrome, the car can be seen at various car restoration competitions.
"I've never entered a car show when I didn't win a first or second place," says Fitzgerald.
His business has the feel of a neighborhood auto shop, the kind of place where every delivery person is called by name, as are many customers. It's the kind of place that advertises by word-of-mouth and magnetic refrigerator calendars. It may be a humble place, yet it's caught the attention of Inlander voters, who say Fitzgerald is the best mechanic in town. He breaks into a wide smile at the news.
"It's kind of funny for a small shop like this to win," he drawls. "Everybody in Spokane knows us. Thing is, everybody who comes here gets treated fair, and for a reasonable price. They all come back."
2nd: Steve Henjum, Final Drive Parts & amp; Repair
3rd: Ken Miller, Wiremasters