Search For:

Share This

Navigating Roads Together

Partners in life, partners in business

Jake, one of the Fraleys’ family dogs, kisses Mike to Theresa’s delight. Photo: Alexis Matsui
Mike and Theresa Fraley take a walk together after a long day at the shop.Photo: Alexis Matsui
Parts specialist Mike Walker hops onto a fully working mini-motorcycle in the parts store of Fraley’s Automotive. Photo: Alexis Matsui
Mike took over Fraley Automotive from his father, Bill, in 2010. Photo: Alexis Matsui
Theresa Fraley works in the office and manages the business side. Photo: Alexis Matsui
The Fraleys are husband and wife, and business partners. Photo: Alexis Matsui
Mike Fraley prepares a crank shaft for grinding. Photo: Alexis Matsui
Johnnie Baca, a machinist, prepares to resurface an engine head. Photo: Alexis Matsui
The hands of Johnnie Baca, a machinist at Fraley Automotive. Photo: Alexis Matsui
Mike Fraley helps repair electrical elements of an International flatbed truck. Photo: Alexis Matsui

Mike and Theresa Fraley, owners of Fraley Automotive, recognize the delicate balance between being spouses and running a business. 

“At first, it took us a while to start realizing once we leave here, we need to leave work here,” says Mike, 57. “Once we’re able to do that, then we’re able to relax. It helps our relationship.” 

Mike and Theresa, consumer-members of Clark Energy, took over Fraley Automotive from Mike’s father, Bill, in 2010, just as Bill did from his father, Everett, who opened the first shop in Winchester in the 1910s. Everett Fraley started the business to serve local tobacco farmers, fixing tractors, trucks and farm equipment. 

Everett left his business to his three boys, Bernard, Bill and Andy. They expanded the business to seven stores throughout the region. Bill took over the Mount Sterling shop, the only one left today. Growing up in the shop, Mike began learning the fundamentals of auto mechanics at age 8. He started working at the shop full time in 1980, helping his father while his mother ran the financial aspects of the business.

Mike modernized the three-generation business, and his passion for race cars has given the shop a national reputation.

Vernon Nickell, a car collector and record holder at Clay City’s Kentucky Dragway, has brought his race cars to Fraley for over 30 years. “Why do I come here? That guy over there,” he says, pointing to Mike. “I don’t trust a lot of people to help me. You call him, he’s there.”

While race enthusiasts from across the country send their cars to Mike for his expertise, he thinks quality service is what makes his store special. He credits Theresa, 54, for that.

“She straightened out the financial part of it,” he says. “She kind of took that over, started running that for us, so I could focus on the machine shop.” 

His stress level has improved since Theresa started working full time. “I was getting pretty bad there for a while, blood pressure high,” he says. “I had a whole lot of issues. She started calming me down.” 

Theresa works many hours alongside Mike and wears many hats, including accounting, employee management and organization, but she’s proud of what they have built. She’s also proud that she is supporting her husband. 

“I don’t love this,” she says. “It’s not my passion, but I love him.” 

Kentucky communities have stories—like this one—to tell. For 44 years, the Mountain Workshops have been telling them. Each year since 1976, the photojournalism program at Western Kentucky University has brought storytellers together to highlight communities throughout the state.

The workshops have five educational offerings: photojournalism, video, picture editing and digital storytelling; and one for K-12 educators. Students and professionals from across the world can sign up to participate. Typically, the program integrates participants into a community for five days, but—as with most programs this year—Mountain Workshops has been impacted by COVID-19. This year, the workshops are still happening, but in a modified form with an online environment.

The author/photographer for the accompanying story, Alexis Matsui, a multimedia producer for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, participated in the program in 2018 in Mount Sterling. The information, interviews and photos she gathered during Mountain Workshops were the basis for her story.

“It was one of the most intense, but rewarding educational experiences I’ve ever had,” Matsui says. “My coaches and the other students were incredible in helping me hone my technical skills, but more importantly, find the images that really capture the essence of a story. I wish I could go back every year.”

For more information, including images and stories from past workshops, as well as details on how you can apply to participate, visit

Don't Leave! Sign up for Kentucky Living updates ...

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.