For North Vancouver native Leah Gillanders, cars have been a passion since she was a young girl. She liked the sounds, the looks and the power of vehicles, so when she had the chance to take an automotive program at Carson Graham Secondary School in 2003, she jumped at it. After two semesters, she excelled to the point of getting a scholarship to BCIT’s Automotive Service Technician and Operations (ASTO) program. “I guess I can say that automotive found me,” says Gillanders.
“No one in my family is involved in the automotive industry, I just love cars. I’m interested in how they work, and keeping everybody safe on the road is important to me. Years ago, our family vehicle had a tire explosion and we didn’t know how to change the tire. I didn’t like the sense of not knowing, so it was awesome when I got the BCIT scholarship. I knew right then what I wanted to do after I graduated.”
After completing the first year of her studies, she apprenticed for two years at Jim Pattison Toyota in North Vancouver, followed by nine years at Brian Jessel BMW in Burnaby. Gillanders says she always had a dream to open up a shop, but reaching that goal had its challenges. “When I started looking for a place, landlords who were male wouldn’t even give me the time of day let alone a contract to lease a shop, “she says.“ They wanted to talk to a man, and called me derogatory names. My current landlord is female and she’s awesome.”
Since starting her career in the auto industry, Gillanders focused on helping people understand their vehicle. “If they know what’s happening with their car, they are more aware of why they have to maintain it and why repairs have to be done. I also do Ladies Nights to teach basic care and maintenance for cars.” Recognized with a Business Excellence award by the North Vancouver Chamber of Commerce, Gillanders has, at age 30, reached her goal successfully operating an automotive shop that specializes in servicing European vehicles with a high standard of quality workmanship. “I help my customers with a service game plan, advising them on what needs to be done right away and what can wait, or if it’s not worth fixing all.”
Future plans for Leah’s Automotive is to incorporate a nail salon on the mezzanine at the shop. “My legal company name is Leah’s Auto and Nail Lounge, so I would eventually like to have a place where people can come to have their car repaired and get their nails done at the same time. ”But for now, providing quality auto service for a growing customer base works for Leah Gillanders.
Contact Leah today for all your auto needs.