By Susan Poizner
Special to The Toronto Sun
When Michael Kapil was a boy, he loved hanging around his dad's garage. "I remember playing in a car when it was lifted on a hoist for repair. Once I was up in the air, I cast some string out the window and pretended to fish for bits of metal down on the ground."
While the other kids his age were scribbling in colouring books, Michael preferred drawing on blank work order sheets from his dad's business. "I would fill them out, pretending Mr. Smith needs a new radiator or something," Michael says.
Michael's father, Sam, never suspected his son wanted to work with him in the garage. So, when Michael went to Ryerson to study business, Sam must have assumed his son would later find a job as a manager in a big corporation.
The Bachelor of Commerce course at Ryerson covered marketing, accounting, finance and personnel management, and Michael knew all these would come in handy when he went into business with his dad.
"My father had to learn from experience, and he has spent the last 25 years getting to know the industry," Michael says. "My course has taught me more about marketing, how to grow the business and how to make it more efficient."
Sam Kapil, 52, came to Canada from Punjab in Northern India when he was just 19 years old, and he has worked non-stop since then. In his early years in Canada, he took English courses at night and worked as an apprentice mechanic and gas station attendant during the day.
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Sam got his licence as a mechanic in 1973, after apprenticing and studying at Centennial College -- doing the same course his son is doing now. He has also done a number of short courses at Centennial designed to upgrade his skills as a mechanic.
He later completed a Georgian College correspondence course to get a licence for used car sales.
In 1975, Sam bought the gas station he apprenticed in. Three years later, he opened Central Import (www.toronto.com/centralimport
), specialising in the repair and maintenance of imported cars including Mercedes, BMW, Volvo and Saab. The business is small but busy, employing five mechanics.
Michael has now been working there for three years. But the 28-year-old's education continues. For the past two years, Michael has been studying part-time at Centennial College and doing apprentice work at Central Import so that he can become a licensed mechanic.
Michael's philosophy is that you can't manage a business if you don't understand it completely. "I may not ultimately be doing much of the mechanical work, but I need to understand what the mechanics are doing and be able to explain it to our clients," he says.
An old cash register -- perhaps from the '40s or '50s -- sits in the Central Import office at 472 King St., E. It's beautiful, with its shiny chrome old-fashioned buttons. Forget digital technology. This is what Sam and Michael use to hold their cash.
When Sam bought his gas station in 1975, this cash register came as part of the deal. Antique collectors have tried to buy it from him, but Sam will never sell. This register is a symbol of how much he has achieved since arriving in Canada 33 years ago.
And one day, Michael would like to pass that on to a son of his own. "My father came here to Canada and built this business up from nothing," Michael says. "I've always loved cars. And after all his hard work, there's no way I would let the business die."
(Susan Poizner (firstname.lastname@example.org)
is a Toronto-based freelance writer.)
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