Work is Play for the Spillman Brothers

The Spillman brothers forego retirement to launch new businesses in West Wendover

By Dianna Troyer

From left, Mike, Richard, Robert and John Spillman stand in front of Grease Monkey Auto Care Service Center, the anchor business in a development started to provided much-needed services for the community. Photos by Sarah Spratling

New businesses opening in West Wendover are a tribute to the late Merle Spillman, who taught his 11 children to approach life and investments with hard work and humor.

Instead of retiring, his sons Mike, Bob, Richard and John formed a limited liability corporation three years ago and discussed what new businesses were needed in their hometown of West Wendover.

“We decided to name our company Bomarc Investments to honor our parents,” says Mike, who manages the new Grease Monkey Auto Care Service Center and Monkey Shine Car Wash at 801 Florence Way. “It stands for Boys of Merle and Ruth. People ask us what the letter C stands for. We had to figure out how to end it somehow, so we decided that letter would work,” he adds, laughing.

John, left, and Mike worked with their brothers to decide which franchises would benefit West Wendover. The brothers chose Grease Monkey as the anchor business.

Mike says the brothers get along and enjoy working together.

“We always manage to see the humor in different situations,” he says.

The brothers hired Ascent Construction to build Grease Monkey, which opened in late August, and an adjacent 14,000-square-foot retail plaza. Businesses that will open there include a mailing and copy store, a dollar store and a dry cleaner.

“We still have some retail space available for people to lease,” Mike says.

The brothers chose Grease Monkey as their anchor business because they thought residents and travelers on the nearby interstate would benefit.

“We’re the first Grease Monkey to open in Nevada,” says Mike. “We researched different franchises, and the company is really good to work with for owners. They’re headquartered in Denver.”

Residents have been supportive.

“We changed a lot of oil to celebrate our grand opening, and now we’re seeing return customers,” Mike says. “People come here because it’s convenient. I used to have to crawl under my car on the floor in my garage to change the oil. It’s nice to not have to do that anymore.”

The staff also can do light mechanical work, such as changing spark plugs.

While Mike oversees Grease Monkey, Bob will manage Rocket Cleaners—a tribute to their 96-year-old mother, who lives at an assisted living center in Salt Lake City.

“Everyone around here knew her as Grandma Rocket,” says Bob. “She had a ’73 Chevy with Glasspack mufflers and drove like she had them, so you know how she got that name.”

Bob chose a dry cleaning business because there isn’t one in town.

“We’ll also do serviced laundry for shirts and other clothing,” he says. “Plus, we’ll have big washers to do sleeping bags and blankets.”

Bob also will manage Buckshot’s, a discount and dollar store.

“Ninety-five percent of the merchandise will cost a dollar, except some seasonal items in the aisles that will cost about $3 or $4,” he says. “We want to offer a variety of products.”

Since the Spillman brothers filed their corporate name, Mike says their business venture has been positive. “Ascent Construction has done a wonderful class A job for us,” he says. “We’d all rather be working here at our new businesses than be retired.”

Three years ago, Mike retired as maintenance superintendent at the nearby potash plant after working there 43 years. His father had moved his family to town in 1956 to work as an electrician at the plant.

“Retirement wasn’t really for me,” says Mike, 68. “I love to fish, garden and get outside, but the winters are long. I’ve loved working here. I’m seeing people I haven’t seen in a long time, and it’s great to visit with new people, too.”

From left, Mike, Robert, Richard and John say they are excited to open their new businesses for the community.

Bob, 56, had been working for a company that sells small consumer products such as sunglasses and flashlights to convenience stores.

“My brothers talked me into this,” he says, grinning.

John, 54, had worked in the casino industry in marketing for three decades.

“With his experience, we persuaded him to join us, too, and help find tenants,” says Mike.

Richard, 62, lives in Hyrum, Utah, and was looking for investments after selling his software company, Spillman Technologies Inc., in 2016.

While succeeding in their respective careers, the brothers have always remembered who they were in their father’s eyes.

“He gave us all funny nicknames,” Mike says. “I guess with 11 of us, it helped him remember us. I’m number four and ‘Finnegan’ for the kids’ song ‘Mike Finnegan.’ Richard is number seven, and his middle name is Eugene, so he became ‘Richard Eugene the Flying Machine.’ Bob was number 10 and named ‘Buckshot Bob.’ Then there’s the youngest, John, who is ‘Johnny Jump Up.’”

Some of the Spillman brothers’ future customers might be their own family members coming to town for their annual summer reunion.

“By now, there are about 155 of us who come to our reunion,” says Mike. “We have to rent the community center because it’s the only place big enough for us.”

Bob sums up the brothers’ attitudes about being entrepreneurs in their hometown.

“We’re all excited to be opening these businesses the community needs,” he says.