From the moment you walk into Eli Allison’s Auto Repair Revolution, it’s clear that this is not your average mechanic’s shop. The first thing you see coming in from noisy SoDo is a cozy, unexpected entry space decorated with vintage photos of Eli and friends with their first cars. A month of personal and crowdsourced work went into putting together this comfortable waiting area. “The building used to be a plastics manufacturing plant. It was a complete mess.” Eli takes pride in making the shop feel open, welcoming, and safe.
Eli wants to revolutionize the mechanic industry. Inspired by a strong social justice background, he hopes to build a space where people can not only get their car fixed, but also learn something along the way to become more knowledgeable about their vehicles. We’ve all heard horror stories of car mechanics, and Eli has personally seen customers taken advantage of. “I worked at a dealership for years and found the industry to be kind of crappy. I knew I had to leave or go do my own thing.” And it’s not necessarily that mechanics are bad people. For example, Eli told me that most dealerships pay on a per-job basis. If you know that you’ll be paid $400 no matter how long it takes, that gives you an incentive to take shortcuts and finish as quickly as possible — potentially at the cost of doing a good job.
One example of a class Eli wants to offer is a basic training course for new drivers. For most teenagers learning to drive, parents and instructors are focused on how to drive the car, not how to take care of it. This can leave people open to being taken advantage of, especially youth or women. If you don’t know the basics of maintaining your car and a mechanic tells you to get your brake fluid changed every 5000 miles, you might not realize that you don’t actually need that level of service. Similarly, some basic tasks or diagnosis can be done by drivers themselves without needing a mechanic, if they’re armed with some basic knowledge. You might not be able to learn enough to fix your car, but you could at least learn enough so that when you’re stranded on the side of the road, you can tell whether it’s safe to continue on to a garage on your own instead of needing a tow truck.
Eli’s shop has been open since January but there just hasn’t been the time or money to start putting together materials for classes yet. This is where the money from the Awesome Foundation will help out. The shop is all set to serve as a space for learning, but the Awesome Foundation grant will help with all the little things that make a classroom run — visual aides, take home materials, guides for people to keep in their car, something they can use as a reference. I think I speak for all the trustees when I say that we’re extremely excited to see what Eli can put together and we can’t wait to attend the first course — even those of us who don’t own a car! We hope this becomes something that the entire community can use and benefit from and we look forward to seeing what Eli can build.