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The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Fit to be king
Lilli Dellheim '25 M.A., Special to the Hawk • July 13, 2024

I brake for manicures

Girls Auto Clinic in Upper Darby offers car repairs and classes in auto maintenance (Photo by Emily Graham, ’20).

Girls Auto Clinic in Upper Darby challenges gender norms

Girls Auto Clinic Repair Center is an auto body shop designed by women and for women. The unique shop, which opened in January 2017 in Upper Darby, Pa., is half mechanic and half salon where women can drop their cars off and get their hair or nails done while they wait.

The clinic was started by Patrice Banks, whose vision was to help women like her who do not know how to properly care for their vehicle. Banks previously had very little knowledge about cars, but she took automotive classes and eventually dedicated her time to starting the Girls Auto Clinic.

The shop is designed to make customers, specifically women, as comfortable as possible and promotes female empowerment. The business works toward this goal by both catering to women to make the car repair process easier and by breaking down stereotypes about women and the profession. All of the mechanics, or “shecanics” as they call them, are women trying to show that they have just as much place in this line of work as men do.

Although more women in the United States have driver’s licenses than men, less than two percent of automotive service mechanics and technicians are women. Despite the increase in licensed women in recent history, the automobile industry is still predominantly run by men and can be intimidating to women. The “shecanics” are proving that women can work with cars and all women are capable of knowing how to care for their cars.

When women come to the shop, the mechanics realize that most of them are coming from negative experiences. Since many women typically do not have much knowledge on cars, other mechanics can easily take advantage of them with unfair prices, misleading information and poor service. The shop is meant to be a safe space for women, as well as members of the LGBTQ community and anyone else who might not feel comfortable in a normal shop.

Most drivers today turn to the Internet to try to solve their problems, which can result in varying or inaccurate information.

Girls Auto Clinic, however, works with the women and shows them what is wrong with their car so they can gain useful information and a positive experience.

For further help, Banks wrote a book, “The Girls Auto Clinic Glove Box Guide,” full of simple how-to information for women to keep in their cars in case of emergencies. The book will be available for purchase in September 2017. The clinic also offers various workshops and opportunities to teach women about auto maintenance.

According to Susan Sweeney, the shop forewoman and a licensed cosmetologist, the mechanics are very invested in their jobs and consider each other and their customers to be a community.

Many of the mechanics travel to work each day, and their job has become a big part of their lives. They truly care about giving their customers the best service they can.

A large part of the auto shop experience is waiting, so Girls Auto Clinic makes the wait as enjoyable as possible. The waiting room is furnished with comfortable chairs, pillows and a television with access to Netflix.

Customers can help themselves to coffee, tea and donuts. The shop also has free Wi-Fi so clients can work on laptops and make the most of their time.

Finally, customers can relax in the Clutch Beauty Bar next door, where licensed cosmetologists offer manicures, pedicures, blowouts, and waxes.

The salon is a cool, comfortable space decorated with vintage auto-inspired décor—including a sink made from a tire—that brings the two businesses together.

Although the shop has only been open for two months, the business is looking to expand and set up locations in different states. No matter where they go, they hope to run each shop with the same core values on which Banks built the original Girls Auto Clinic.

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