WOODBURY, Minn. — It could be the glitter pillows. Or the manicure booth. Or the “Hello Beautiful” wall signs.
But when customers enter the newly opened Maxville Services in Woodbury, they know they aren’t in a run-of-the-mill mechanic’s shop.
“I have been in more than 200 car-repair shops across the country, and there is nothing exactly like this,” said Susan Moynihan, owner of what might be Minnesota’s only car-repair business designed with women in mind.
Her customers can get their hair cut as they wait for an oil change. They can shop in a knickknack store. Or they can take classes to learn such skills as how to jump-start a car, change a tire or check the oil.
She said most car-repair customers are women, yet they don’t feel welcome in most garages.
“They consistently say they don’t feel a sense of trust,” said Moynihan, whose shop has six employees — three women and three men.
Moynihan said that when she worked for an auto-parts supply company, she was commonly treated with condescension. She said she visited garages across the country and found them to be bastions of sexism.
“I experienced that every time I went somewhere,” Moynihan said.
She began to think about a female-friendly garage and assembled an all-female garage advisory board.
“I asked them what services they might want while waiting for their car,” Moynihan said.
The result is a different kind of car-repair business.
The waiting area is a large, high-ceilinged space. In one corner is a play area, with board games and dress-up costumes for children. A vase of fresh flowers brightens the customer service counter.
The gift shop displays purses, scented candles, bracelets and “fingerless gloves” made from recycled cashmere sweaters. There’s even a gift-wrap area.
“Here’s the room for mannies and peddies,” said Moynihan, referring to manicures and pedicures. Next to that is the booth for hair cutting and treatments.
She talked with several waiting customers, who recalled memories of the dreary waiting rooms in other car-repair garages.
“You have a Reader’s Digest from the 1980s to read,” said Moynihan.
“You are in a greasy waiting room with three-day-old coffee,” said Roger Stawski, owner of a salon next to Maxville Services, which is near Tamarack Village at 8160 Coller Way.
“You stare at people. They stare at you,” said customer Patty Fisher of Mendota Heights.
But trust was the No. 1 reason why Fisher was there. She said she recently took her car to a dealership in Inver Grove Heights for an oil change. “And they come back with a list of everything that’s wrong,” Fisher said. “And here’s me — I don’t know anything, no one has explained anything, and I don’t have $1,200 to spend.
“My heart is pounding. It happens every time.”
But not at Maxville Services.
“I come in here and everyone’s friendly. They are real,” Fisher said.
Will the shop be a turnoff for men?
Moynihan hopes not.
“You can get a beard trim while you are waiting,” she said.
And customer Stawski said the place appeals to men as well.
“This goes beyond being just a place for women. It’s a nicer place,” he said.
As Fisher walked out, she stopped to ask a question that might never be heard in another garage: “Sue, is it OK if I buy this sign?”
It was a sign saying what could be a slogan for the shop: “Every accomplishment begins with a decision to try.”
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Pictured above: Car owner Angela Lanahan, right, looks under the bumper of her car with, from left, technician Alex Hartman, shop owner Susan Moynihan and customer representative Lisa Dahl at Maxville Services, a car repair shop for women, in Woodbury, Minn. Lanahan came in for an oil change and tire pressure check and after diagnosis learned that she had a nail in her tire and a torn rack and pinion boot. (Pioneer Press: Jean Pieri)