In some ways, the small building that stood at 801 E. Walnut Street was a shrine to the hubcaps sold at the business.
Opened in 1978 by Mekki Omaar Maalik — known to many Evansville residents as Mickey or “The Hubcap Man” — the business was named Lost & Found Hubcaps, and along with hubcaps, Mickey sold used tires and copies of the “Muslim Journal.” The building sported thousands of its namesake products, all overlapped on every surface creating a scale-like look on the structure. Mickey used to claim there were nearly a million that covered his building and were stacked inside, purchased from salvage yards or other businesses.
When an old photo of the business was shared in November on the Facebook group “I Grew Up in Evansville,” it quickly garnered responses. Choruses of “I remember this” and “It was over on Walnut Street” filled the comment section. If you needed a hubcap, Mickey was your man, many said. It didn’t matter if you had a Ford, Cadillac, or Plymouth — Mickey would have the hubcap you needed. And if he didn’t, he would have it within a day.
For 25 years, Mickey sold hubcaps from his small business, a converted gas station that sat near the former vinegar plant (many others on the Facebook group remembered the smell of vinegar that lingered in the air as they drove past Mickey’s hubcap shrine). Many also remembered Mickey’s days as an amateur boxer — he was crowned featherweight Golden Gloves champion from 1940 to 1943 and joined the Army’s boxing team when he enlisted during World War II. When he returned to Evansville, he taught boxing to kids in his neighborhood.
In 1999, the city of Evansville condemned Mickey’s property and moved forward on plans to demolish the building to make way for the Walnut Center redevelopment area. Though there were attempts to relocate Lost & Found Hubcaps, nothing ever came to fruition.
Mickey passed away at the age of 76 on Jan. 28, 2000, after a 10-year battle with cancer. It’s been almost 20 years since “Hubcap City” disappeared from Walnut Street, but memories of the kind-hearted boxer Mickey and his shrine to hubcaps still remain.
Photo Copyright: John Baeder (photographer) / Thomas Paul Fine Art. Hubcaps, Evansville, IN, 1978 – Chromogenic photograph – 20 x 30 inches