Solana Beach auto shop takes on partner as it continues giving ‘honest, good services’

Michael Gilmore and Alan “Mitt” Mittleman. Photo by Kristina Houck
Michael Gilmore and Alan “Mitt” Mittleman. Photo by Kristina Houck

Michael Gilmore has been in business in Solana Beach longer than the coastal community has been a city.

By the time the city incorporated in 1986, Gilmore’s first auto shop had already been open for six years.

In August 1980, Gilmore opened California Import Auto on Highway 101. From Audi to Volkswagen, the auto repair shop specializes in foreign models, but also services domestic vehicles.

“Solana Beach is just a nice folksy little neighborhood that just seemed to have nice people,” Gilmore said. “I was looking around for a place to open a shop. This place just had a good vibe.”

With business booming in Solana Beach, Gilmore, who lives in University City, opened his second shop on Cedros Avenue about 11 years ago. North Coast Alignment specializes in alignment and motor sports. Last year, the Rotary Club of Del Mar recognized the business during its inaugural 4-Way Ethical Business Award ceremony at the Del Mar Fairgrounds.

Solana Beach businessman Alan “Mitt” Mittleman has been a dedicated customer of California Import Auto and North Coast Alignment for a decade. With appreciation of the business, he came on board as a partner at the start of July.

“We became more than just clients, we became friends over the years,” said Mittleman, a Solana Beach resident for more than 20 years. “I loved being a customer — most of the customers here do. It just attracted me to want to be a part of it.”

Although this is Mittleman’s first time in the automotive industry, he is not new to the business world. He owned San Diego-based Custom Logos for 20 years.

Still, he admitted there’s a learning curve.

“I’m learning, but I’ve known the staff for years,” he said. “Everybody is treating me great and teaching me a lot of things.”

He couldn’t have a better teacher than Gilmore, who has been in the industry for more than four decades.

Originally from Seattle, Gilmore opened his first shop in Alaska, where he started as a welder. Gilmore later had a shop in his hometown of Seattle before relocating to San Diego in 1980.

“I enjoy meeting the people and getting to know them,” said Gilmore, who has a third shop called Align-Tech in Escondido. “It can be a tough industry. It’s nice to be able to provide honest, good services.”

The Solana Beach shops are about 3,000 square feet each. When Gilmore first opened California Import Auto, it was just him and one other person working on cars.

“We were just two guys doing everything for years,” he recalled.

Today, the shops have a combined staff of close to 20.

As new business partners, the pair hope to expand marketing efforts and increase sales so that the company has another 35 years.

“This is a hard business. There’s so many shops going in and out of business,” said Gilmore, reflecting on the company’s 35th anniversary. “It’s something you have to work at every day.”

Added Mittleman, “It’s really cool to be associated with a business that’s been in Solana Beach for 35 years.

“It’s already a great business as it is. My job is to just enhance it and make it even better.”

For more about California Import Auto, visit

For more about North Coast Alignment, visit