Although a 41-year-old Fair Bluff native who took a big risk six years ago by leaving the security of state employment to open his own business is a little down after flooding from Hurricane Matthew ravaged his computer store, he is anything but out.
M i c h a e l G r e e n , t h e owner of Mike Mikes Computers, is looking forward to reo p e n i n g h i s business soon with a heavy reliance on his strong Christian faith and with a little help from the Columbus Jobs Foundation.
Green opened his business in the heart of Fair Bluff ’s downtown business district in 2011. Although for the first six months he tried to run the store and continue his employment with the N.C. Dept. of Public Safety as an information technology system support specialist in the prison system, the load eventually became too much, and he left his state job to devote full time to his fledgling business.
“I was trying to do too much,” Green says, “because after six months of running the computer shop and working full time at the prison, I suffered a stressful back injury and was under a doctor’s care for a few months. After being cleared to go back to work, I felt that physically I could not handle both the shop and a fulltime job.”
“I prayed and prayed and asked the Lord to send me a sign to make the right decision,” he said. “I walked into the shop and crafted a resignation letter and waited for the sign. About an hour later, I heard a voice which I believe to be the voice of Jesus which simply said, ‘Send it.’ I sent the resignation letter and haven’t looked back since.”
Despite his faith, he admits to being “on edge a little” in the early going. “I remember the first week, business was slow, but my family and the commun i t y w e r e very supportive and helpful every step of the way,” he says. “I began learning what following your true passion meant. I became excited with being involved with the community, the people and helping provide a service to the people of Fair Bluff.”
Finally, about three months after leaving his state job, Green says he began to feel that he had found his true calling. “God blessed the business and more and more people started coming in and I was so excited with helping others that I forgot about everything else,” he says. “After month three, I knew everything would be okay and that, as long as I put God first, the rest would fall into place.”
He admits, though, to having been “a little nervous” relying on self-employment to cover both his business and personal bills. “This was new territory for me, because I’ve always held a steady job and self-employment is different. You’re so responsible for everything, and I mean everything. I had to figure my way through a lot of time and a lot of research but, little by little, I became more confident that everything would work itself out,” he says.
That confidence was shaken in early October when floodwaters devastated downtown Fair Bluff. Green was out of town at the time, but he saw online photographs posted by professional photographer Jody Johnson, another Fair Bluff businessman who lost both his home and his business in the flood.
“I hurried home to see what I could save, if anything,” Green says. “As I made my way downtown, I saw catastrophic damage, and my heart broke into many pieces as I saw all the businesses filled with water on Main Street. The downtown district as I knew it was no longer.”
When he got to his store, he found computers submerged in water. He was able to salvage a few items that were placed on high shelves but, for the most part, everything was destroyed. He found two of his college diplomas floating in the muck.
“I could not believe that, overnight, the memories, the businesses, the community, lots of equipment and the computers were all gone, just like that,” he says. “I had no flood insurance, either, which made it even worse and would make reopening just about impossible.”
He admits that a sense of hopelessness set in as he saw everything in his store floating in water. “I didn’t stay at the store long, because I had to process it,” he says. “I wanted to cry alone and be by myself.”
That sense of despair gave way to hope, however, in no small part thanks to assistance in the form of a low-interest loan from the Columbus Jobs Foundation, a loan that will enable him to reopen in the near future.
He’s currently working out of his home to provide computer repair services in the community but he says he’ll have the new shop open soon. In the meantime, he can be reached by 910-649- 7009, through his Mike Mikes Computers Facebook page or through his website, www. mikemikes.com.
Green has set a goal of having his new store up and running by June 30. “The location will be inside Fair Bluff and it will be announced in coming weeks,” he says. “Services provided will include computer repair, fax services, printing and copying at first. Then I’ll be adding more services after that.” He urges former customers and friends to keep checking his Facebook page to learn the exact date and location as soon as he has worked out the details.
While he’d like to reopen in his old location on Main Street, he understands the realities faced by his former landlord, Carl Meares, and he speaks highly of Meares. Costs involved in renovating the old storefront, including remediation of mold, are too prohibitive to permit him to return to his former location.
He has praise for Rick Edwards, head of the Columbus Jobs Foundation. “I never can thank that organization enough for its support and assistance that will help bring Mike Mikes back to Fair Bluff.” He also has received strong support from Fair Bluff Mayor Billy Hammond, former and current Fair Bluff Chamber of Commerce presidents Karen Grainger and Kathy Ashley, as well as from Esther Scott, Gene Martin, Michelle Dippel, area churches, other business owners and even the news media. He particularly singles out his mother, Carrietha Green, and his aunt, Barbara Vereen, for their encouragement during a difficult time.
“I want to say thank you to all the organizations that came in and provided support, and I thank the countless other people I may have forgotten to mention. I am so grateful to the Fair Bluff community,” he says.
He also is optimistic about the future of Fair Bluff. “I am honestly excited when it comes to the future of the town,” he smiles. “I believe Fair Bluff will be back better than ever before.”
The 1994 graduate of West Columbus High School obtained an associate degree in information systems from Southeastern Community College in 2000, then went on to earn a B.S. in computer science at UNC-Pembroke in 2003. Two years ago, he obtained a master’s degree in management and leadership from Liberty University, in Lynchburg, Virginia.
His professional life took him all over the nation providing services, including computer repair and network troubleshooting, from 2003- 2006 for Tolt Service Group/ Syntec. He worked out of Chicago, Illinois, but traveled to places like New York and Alabama supporting company clients like Regal Cinema movie theaters and the Albertson’s and Jewel-Osco grocery chains. But the tug to return home became strong in 2006 and he came back to North Carolina to be closer to his family and the community he loves so.
He accepted a job in a collections agency’s call center in North Carolina in 2006 and worked there before accepting employment with the state in 2009 and then finally opening his own business in 2011.