If you call up Autometrics auto-repair and supplies for a consultation, a new part, or some advice on your car, you might be surprised. When the ringing stops and the line clicks, the voice on the other end is not the one you might expect: that of a gruff mechanic, grabbing a call between repairs. Instead, at the click, a melodic female voice warmly answers the phone. Autometrics, what can I do for you?
The voice belongs to Teddy Fortin, 29 year old Brunswick native. Fortin, the daughter of Autometrics’ owners Ray and Joaquin Fortin, has been running the office at the shop’s Bath Road location for nearly eight years.
Fortin jokes about people’s initial surprise when they see her at the shop desk. “My mom is Joey and I’m Teddy so when people come to meet us they expect to meet two men, it’s pretty funny,” laughed Fortin.
Autometrics is a family business. It originated on Pleasant Street in a rented garage off the side of what was then a True Value hardware store (that building is now home to Pleasant Street’s Dunkin Donuts). At the time, the building was owned by Fortin’s mother’s family. In 1977, Fortin’s father and his business partner began renting the garage—Ray then met Joey, his future wife, bought out his partner and the rest is history.
Together he and Joey, who does the books for the business, have provided the residents of Brunswick, Harpswell and Topsham with top quality auto services for 40 years. Ray, now 63, still works contentedly as the shop’s head mechanic and owner. Although as Fortin adds, her mother’s role in the business is equally essential.
“When people want to talk to my dad about stuff, we say do you want the real boss? Because it’s my mom. She is the workhorse behind everything,” Fortin said.
Aside from her mother, who plays an essential, but more inconspicuous role, Fortin is the only woman at Autometrics. Although she herself does no large scale repairs, she still found that initially, people were taken aback to see a woman in the shop.
“In the beginning it’s really tough when you’re filling a position that’s been male dominated for so long,” said Fortin. “I’d get a lot of phone calls like ‘can I speak to one of the mechanics’ and obviously that doesn’t work. I can’t pull someone off of work to get on the phone and I can totally tell them what’s wrong with their car.”
At Autometrics, Fortin and her mother occupy markedly different spaces than her father and the other male employees; they are not mechanics. But despite their removal from the shop itself, both women’s roles are imperative to the success of the business.
“I don’t actually fix cars. Obviously, I do some stuff out there, but nothing crazy. I line the work up, I get the parts, I talk to customers,” said Fortin. “My dad always said, ‘don’t start turning wrenches because you won’t stop.’ So I listened to him.”
While she now feels entirely at home in her position at Autometrics, Fortin recalls the times that she had felt uncomfortable as a woman on the other side of the counter: when she was a customer at an auto shop. She recounted one particular experience in college when her car broke down in Stowe, Vermont.
“The guy [at the shop] was so rude. and I remember feeling so awkward because he didn’t want to help me. I realized how hard it can be for a female walking into a repair shop,” said Fortin. “My dad had told me exactly what was wrong with the car and the guy just treated me like I had no idea what I was talking about. I thought if this is what every woman feels like walking into a repair shop I can see why people don’t want to go there.”
This experience has stayed with Fortin and she keeps it in mind in her own work at the shop. For her, there is no such thing as too small or too silly a problem. “Even if it’s the littlest thing I try not to make people feel bad about what’s wrong with their car or that silly noise they’re hearing,” said Fortin.
Fortin’s older brother, Joe, also worked at the shop for a short time before moving to Florida. According to Fortin, he is a skilled mechanic, but does not envision himself working with cars long-term. Joe stays out of the shop for the most part, but comes in occasionally to help with more challenging electrical repairs.
“It’s hard working with your sibling especially when you’re in the office and you’re the younger one telling your brother what to do,” she reflected.
As for Fortin, she loves her job even though she never anticipated this career path. With remodeling plans for the Bath Road location on the horizon and the prospect of her father’s retirement slowly becoming more of a reality, Fortin’s role at Autometrics is becoming even more significant. When her father retires, she will take the business over.
“It’s crazy. I never would have seen myself doing this,” she admitted. “But it comes really easily to me, the days go by fast, and I just kind of liked it.”