Sarah Bruce
Public Relations / Member Engagement
Email: sarahbruce@ara.bc.ca
Phone: 604-432-7987

Leah’s Automotive and Nail Lounge is Open for Business!

When Leah Gillanders worked for Toyota early in her career, she watched customers go to the spa while their cars were serviced and thought, “Wow, why can’t that be in one place?”

Thanks to her innovation, that is now a reality at Leah’s Automotive and Nail Lounge.

“We are like family,” Leah said about her team.

After several years of owning her successful mechanical repair shop, Leah has expanded and opened an adjoining nail lounge. Her goal was to create a positive environment that combines two of her passions, cars and nails.

The nail salon is a place where women can hang out and learn about cars.

“We are here to build relationships with our clients and their cars,” Leah said. “We want people to feel like they’re comfortable to come over and spend time with us.”

She is also passionate about educating her customers. She never wants them to feel like they can’t ask a question about their vehicle and believes the more a person knows about their car the better driver they are. In fact, she often teaches classes to women about basic maintenance. “We put the cars up in the air and basically go through the things you should be looking for, common problems, how to change your tire, and how to pop the hood and look under it.”

Pick a nail polish to match your car!

By opening a nail lounge attached to an automotive shop, women are encouraged to get involved in the world of cars while they get their nails done or have a massage. The shop itself is bright and inviting with automotive accents everywhere—gorgeous car posters plastered on the walls, upholstery done up like vintage interiors, and wrench door handles.

“It’s also about creating a comfortable work environment,” Leah said. “I don’t think it’s about me being a female owner, it’s about having a clean shop, nice tools, organization, customer care, and employee care.”

For Leah, her team, and her customers, being a woman in a male-dominated industry is so non-issue it’s rarely even brought up. At least most of the time.

“So one of our really good customers was buying a used, temporary car,” Leah said. “It was only $2,000 but he wanted an inspection. The car was a complete piece of junk, rusty and falling apart, and I wouldn’t spend more than $200 on it but I didn’t want to say that in front of the seller. We told our client the car is okay but it needs more work than what it’s worth. When the guy left, he said to the potential buyer, ‘Well your first problem is you come to a shop run by a bunch of girls.’

Relax with a massage while you wait for your car.

“We don’t get that often because it says it right in the name, ‘Leah’s Automotive’, so you know what you’re coming into,” Leah said. “But it wasn’t this guy’s choice to come to us. It’s interesting because I hardly get that and I realized it still happens.”

It can be a challenging industry to get into, Leah explained. “You have to be physically and mentally strong and you have to have passion. You’re an electrician, an engineer, a mechanic, a welder, and even a scientist. But as I’ve grown and have more experience now, I realize it’s not about being a woman. It’s about being the apprentice, intern, or new kid on the job that doesn’t know anything that they pick on you, man or woman.”

“When I started my apprenticeship at Toyota, the guys wouldn’t talk to me, wouldn’t even look at me. I was really upset and went to talk to my manager. He said, ‘You’re doing a good job. Don’t worry about them. Just focus on you.’ Hearing that made me feel really good. All it took was one person and then I was fine.”

Leah learned early on that the only opinion that mattered was her own. So she went out there, did her best, and it paid off, all because she really loves what she does.

Leah will be one of the guest speakers for the Women in the Automotive and Powersports Industry event, hosted by the ARA, on June 27th. To find out how you can get involved learn more here.