WATCH: A unique auto repair shop built by women and geared towards women is attracting awards and a loyal following of customers in the Cowichan Valley.
So on this International Women’s Day, we sent our Skye Ryan to find out what the shop is doing so differently and its clients say it is noticeable from the moment you walk in the doors.
Judy Jeffery once dreaded trips to the auto repair shop.
“I know I’m a woman walking in so I expect to be charged more probably,” said Jeffery.
“I expect to in many cases to be, not talked down to, but ‘you know nothing about what’s going on here so this is probably what you are going to need to do,'” said the Cowichan resident as she recalled previous encounters.
Yet at Cowichan Auto Repair, which was started by Elly Ruge three years ago to empower other women, Jeffery said she finds an entirely different experience when she runs into problems with her car.
“I thought oh there’s something that can happen with this,” said Ruge.
“There’s a niche that can be filled.”
At the shop, Jeffery can meet the mechanic who will try to solve her problem, something she said she never had access to at other shops.
“They’re the one experiencing it,” said Cowichan Auto Repair mechanic Rob Potts.
“They’re the one that drives it every day. It’s a personal thing so you’ve got to listen to them.”
Ruge said she knows the difficulties women can run into at auto-repair shops from experience and has crafted her Duncan shop to be as much about auto repair as it is about empowering women to feel right at home in the male-dominated auto field.
“Because if you walk in like you own the place, you get service,” said Ruge.
So from the female service writer who begins the repair process, to the Women and Wheels workshops she offers to get women under their own hoods, Ruge is trying to change the way women approach her great love: cars.
“It’s happening,” said Ruge.
“If you can come talk to Elly, it’s so much easier because she understands,” said client Lona Maas.
The shop is getting recognized for its work as well. There have been three awards recently, including 2019 Automotive Business of the Year from the Vancouver Island Business Excellence Awards.
“It’s amazing,” said Ruge.
“I didn’t know at the time that it would take off but I knew it was something special.”
So Ruge’s next goal is to find a female red seal certified mechanic to join the team, as her little shop looks to continue making a big difference for Cowichan women and their cars.