By Richard Mundy
For Hometown News
When a woman takes a car into an auto repair shop, she quite often feels at a great disadvantage, and with good reason.
Women are often told of items on their car that need adjusting or charged for repairs they don't need. This, of course, isn't true for all garages, but the few that do taint the profession.
Imagine the relief a woman must feel when visiting an establishment like Best Auto Repair Service in Port Orange. It's operated by Tina Grabowski, co-owner of the garage with her father, Joe Grabowski.
"I started (the business) about 3 years ago," Mr. Grabowski said, "because I had a hot rod and I didn't like anybody else working on it ... so I decided to open up my own shop. I knew a friend who was a good mechanic and I started out from there."
The shop is at 627A Lemon St., but Ms. Grabowski said, "We're on the hunt for a new location. We're too off the beaten path sometimes."
They are looking for a location on U.S. 1, which has increased traffic and higher visibility. She's also thinking of "wrapping" her Yukon to act as a traveling billboard because often they take customers home or to work while their cars are being worked on.
Mr. Grabowski has been involved with cars since he was 16, and has raced them. He moved from Ohio to Florida because he was tired of being cold. Since opening the auto repair business, Mr. Grabowski also started a painting business. "I do commercial painting, mostly restaurants and medical buildings," he said.
That work has become very successful, but it takes him away from running the repair shop on a daily basis.
Ms. Grabowski, who was in banking, was constantly telling her Dad she had to get out of that line of work. This was the time of many mergers and policy changes. She was living in Ocala and banking just didn't suit her nature. So, a deal was struck and Ms. Grabowski took over running Best Auto Repair.
While around cars with her Dad, she is not a "hands-on" mechanic. Instead, she believes "knowledge is power." She feels her role as a service writer is augmented by the fact she is a woman. It makes a woman customer feel at ease talking to her, because she is sympathetic. Paramount to Ms. Grabowski is seeing her customer's vehicle is repaired exactly as the problem dictates and not arbitrarily add on a lot of unnecessary items.
Ms. Grabowski's chief mechanic is Curtis Hunt, a technician with a lot of experience and knowledge about many different types of cars. Coming from New York where he inspected cars, he ran a euro specialty motor repair shop in Port Orange when Mr. Grabowski met him.
"He's constantly on his iPad (keeping up with the latest technical information)," Ms. Grabowski said.
Mr. Hunt also is an excellent teacher, and along with continuing his education about the industry, he enjoys sharing his knowledge with Ms. Grabowski, focusing on the details and functions of parts used in their repairs. He is certified to work on Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar and other foreign makes as well as domestic vehicles.
The shop has a lot of people come in asking for a price on parts, told by another shop they needed a repair. But the Grabowskis' shop often finds they were misled.
"We don't try to sell people stuff they don't need," Mr. Grabowski said.
"Since I've been here ... we've gotten so many repeat customers because of that," Ms. Grabowski said. "They'll go to get a second opinion and come back."
An early fan of NASCAR, heroes like Janet Guthrie and Shirley Muldowney influenced Ms. Grabowski as a youngster to think about being a racecar driver. Even now, her Dad is rebuilding a Chevy Nova in the auto repair garage she runs, so maybe her early occupational wish didn't miss the mark by too much.
Best Auto Repair Service is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays. For information, call (386) 310-7996.