Delta Nelson’s entire life has been rooted in the auto industry, so it only made sense when she decided to open The Mechanix Garage nearly a year and a half ago.
Her great-grandparents had a salvage yard in Garden City, Kansas. Her grandpa was a mechanic. Her uncles and her own kids were into racing.
“It’s all I’ve known really,” Nelson said on a recent afternoon in the lobby at her shop at 1323 Dawes Ave., near 14th Street and Cornhusker Highway.
She said her shop offers everything from basic oil changes and computer diagnostics to replacement tires, brake pads and batteries and work on vehicle suspensions.
And it’s expanding the off-road side of the business, which includes work on side-by-side vehicles, ATVs and customizations. It’s something not every auto shop does, Nelson said.
Nebraska siblings fill demand with Sassy Sisters Swine pork sales
Broadwater rancher turned to Wagyu breed in pursuit of finest cuts of meat
She said she got out of school, got married and had kids. Then, she co-owned a local auto glass company, worked as a service manager for a Ford dealership and managed a Honda and Toyota specialty shop for 12 years before her latest opportunity came along.
People are also reading…
“It’s all just kind of fallen into place,” Nelson said.
Though it hasn’t necessarily been easy being a woman in a career perceived by some to be men’s work.
“It’s still perceived as a male-dominated industry. And it is. But every year we’re seeing more and more females become part of the industry in every aspect,” she said.
According to U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics, last year women accounted for 9.5% of the automotive maintenance and repair positions in the country, 22.2% of automobile dealers and 27.1% of those hired to manufacture vehicles and parts.
Nelson said nationally she’s hearing about more female mechanics becoming service managers and shop owners. She’s one of the only female-owned shops in town.
She’s involved in the Women’s Automotive Counsel, a national group that provides opportunities, education and career leadership to women in the auto industry, and says she’s very much a supporter of women pursuing automotive industry careers.
And there are a range of careers. Her advice to anyone interested in the field: job shadow. Get in and see what it’s about.
To be a mechanic, Nelson said, you still have to be able to turn a wrench. But power tools now make that easier than it once was.
She said at first she was intimidated by some in the industry.
A few parting thoughts from the outgoing Lincoln Chamber of Commerce president
Single-handedly — The man who built, and then rebuilt, a piece of Lincoln’s racing history
“As the years have gone on, I kind of pride myself (on it). … The shock value when they realize that I know what I’m talking about,” Nelson said.
She still deals with people who think women shouldn’t be in the industry. She said she lets them say what they need to say, then shifts the conversation to the work.
In a recent call to a new supplier, she said, the man on the phone asked if she knew what the part she was ordering was for, something he likely wouldn’t have asked a man.
But that’s not usually a problem. She likes to keep things, such as buying parts, as local as she can and has a good camaraderie with her local parts people.
Asked if she felt the need to prove herself early on, Nelson is quick to answer.
“I still do. Every day,” she said. “But that’s OK. Because it keeps me wanting to continue to learn and stay on top of things that may arise.”
Reach the writer at 402-473-7237 or [email protected].
On Twitter @LJSpilger