Mollie Lewis knew that she wanted to be an auto mechanic when she was 12 years old. She started by changing tires at her father’s Chevron dealership in Bernalillo. After she finished high school she headed to Phoenix to attend school for automotive and diesel mechanics.
Lewis said that after working at various auto shops as an auto technician for 25 years, she craved independence. As a female in the auto-repair industry, Lewis said she heard and dealt with a lot of misconceptions and condescending attitudes from employers and customers.
“‘(A woman is) not as technically-minded as a man is,’” she said. “‘We’re not going to be as good at diagnosing things, we’re not as physically strong as men are, so that’s going to be a problem.’ I think that there are quite a few women that have been discouraged by that.”
Last year she opened her own auto repair shop, All in the Wrist.
The experience she provides is distinct in that she understands the stress of having to pay for car repairs, and does her best to ease the pain by spreading work over several visits, she said.
“I felt like I could create something that would make people feel comfortable and make people a little happier about taking care of their cars,” she said.
In the past, she said, being a woman made customers reluctant to accept her diagnosis of car problems, but owning her own shop is actually helping her.
“Women feel more comfortable coming here, and even a lot of men,” she said. “We have a lot of people that have approached us and said ‘They make me feel stupid at other shops.’”
Just off Fourth Street and Mountain Road, the shop with a pink trim has been able to build and retain a steady stream of clients, Lewis said. Since its move from Bernalillo in August, the shop is still growing and services just about every make and model.
Alex Nurga has been a customer for four years and said he plans to remain loyal.
“A lot of shops won’t even do oil changes on Mini Coopers,” Nurga said while waiting in the shop’s lobby. “She’s honest, she’s fun to be around. She won’t screw you.”
Keith Heitman, an auto technician at All in the Wrist, said he’s noticed a big difference in working at Lewis’ compared to bigger shops. “Here I feel like I’m worth something,” he said. “My opinions are valid.”
Heitman said that he feels he has been able to become a better auto technician as well, because Lewis is willing to work with him, whereas in other shops the managers don’t have the time.
Lewis said that since opening the shop, she’s been able to expand and now sells and services tires. She hopes that she will be able to open another shop within the next five years.
“It’s going to sound cliché, but (I) just (want to) be happy and continue to come to work and be thrilled about getting up and coming to work (and) continue to love what I do.”