Mike’s Mobile: bankrupt but fixable?

It could be the comeback of the year—or it could just be a really unusual business move.

In June, Mike’s Mobile Windshield, which had grown to be a regional power in the windshield-replacement business, filed for bankruptcy after closing up shop, laying off all its employees and leaving creditors scrapping for the remains. On Aug. 22, Mike Nordyke, its former owner and president, filed a fictitious business name statement for a company called, of all things, Mike’s Mobile Windshield.

“We’ve reopened,” Nordyke said. “We’re very small.” The business, which in its previous incarnation grossed $1.5 million a month and employed dozens of Chicoans, now consists of Nordyke and his wife. She takes calls at Nordyke’s sister’s house, and Nordyke goes out in his truck to fix the windshields himself.

His was a small-town success story, as over the course of 15 years Nordyke built up a business based on cold-calling people to see if their windshields were chipped or cracked.

Fast-forward to Aug. 20, when Nordyke filed a report with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court Eastern District stating that “there are no funds available” to pay creditors. Nordyke had blamed “large debt involving taxes and trade debt facing it and the lack of cash flow” for the insolvency. According to the filings, Nordyke’s businesses owe at least $4.5 million to at least 65 creditors, include Chico businesses ranging from cleaning firms to accountants.

“There are no assets. There isn’t anything to settle with,” said Nordyke, who also filed for personal bankruptcy.

Nordyke still owes the city of Chico about $90,000 for a low-interest loan used to build his former facility at the airport. David Burkland, who works on economic development for the city, said city attorneys are looking into how Nordyke could start up a new business with the same name. “Our understanding is [that] all of the assets are being held by the court and will be distributed by the court,” he said. “We want to make sure we collect what’s owed the city.”

The phone number, which had been disconnected in recent months, is the same as it was before, and the phone is answered with a cheery “Mike’s Mobile Windshield.” Nordyke said he can’t yet afford advertising (in fact, print and broadcast media are among his creditors) and is not soliciting customers. He expects the customers will return on their own, albeit slowly. “They’ll come back to us when they realize I’m behind the scenes,” he said.

Randall Stone, who was Nordyke’s sales manager before being laid off in January, said the financial troubles started when insurance companies’ reimbursement procedures were changed so Mike’s Mobile Windshield couldn’t bill on the high end of fair market value anymore. “He never competed on a cash basis,” Stone said.

Nordyke said that with low overhead, he believes he can compensate for what he called insurance companies “controlling our industry.” He also hopes he can overcome what he calls “biased reporting” by the news media.

Stone reflected that, while he didn’t always agree with Nordyke’s way of doing business, he felt sorry for him. “Here’s a guy who was on top of the world with a self-proclaimed $20 million auto glass business, a nice home, employing about 1 percent of Chico’s entire job market, an unbelievable profit margin and more toys than most rock stars have, and he lost it all in about one year.”

Nordyke said he’s obviously found himself at a discouraging point in his life. "[Imagine] working all your adult life toward a goal, achieving some level of success and then to have it all fall out from underneath you," he said.