SHERIDAN, Colo. – Nobody wants to spend the day at an auto repair shop. Car repairs can be costly, time consuming and owners can feel like they don’t know what’s going on. But one Sheridan auto repair shop is looking to break those stigmas.
After spending her childhood years around cars, Cece Haug had to get back into the industry. There was no shortage of challenges, though.
“When I decided to pursue my gender transition, one of the sort of uncomfortable things that came up was like, ‘Where am I going to work?’” Haug said. “The environment I was in wouldn't have been very welcoming of that.”
Driven by her love of cars, Haug decided that instead of staying in that so-called masculine environment, she would create her own space – a place where customers and employees could feel welcome and be themselves.
After talking about how to do that with her partner, they came up with Good Judy Garage. Haug says it was a relief creating an environment where people wouldn’t be judged for who they are or how they present.
“We try to make sure that that's not the environment here, whether it's for our employees or for our customers,” explained Haug.
That was something Sophia Ives could relate to. They also worked at a blue-collar job, often feeling like they couldn’t be their true self.
“I was pretty much the only female presenting person in the shop. I kept my head down, I didn't say much about my personal life,” stated Ives. “Not really wanting to bring up that conversation, in some fear because I am a woman.”
Ives says from the moment they walked into Good Judy Garage, they felt comfortable. Ives calls the auto repair shop their second home, with Haug and customers their family.
“Walking into a safe place where you don't have to look over your shoulder every day, every minute… it just takes some of that weight off,” Ives said.
Ives says they didn’t feel like there was much of an impact made at their last job. In talking with customers at Good Judy Garage though, Ives makes them feel safe and tries to make their day a little easier.
“It's weird to say, ‘Oh, I felt affirmed at the auto body shop,’” customer Neal Walker said. “But I really do when I come in here. I feel totally at ease.”
Which is exactly the kind of safe and welcoming environment that Haug wanted to create when opening the auto repair shop.
“It's hard sometimes when you're queer that you have to put that part away sometimes, but here, not at all,” Walker explains.
Haug said it’s that kind of impact on people that affects her the most, never having dreamed of being the change she’s wanted in the auto repair industry. Turning her passion for cars into a safe space for all has been rewarding for Haug.
“When you put yourself out there and sort of show your vulnerabilities, it helps your customers to feel more at ease,” Haug said. “Because they know you're putting yourself out there and being your authentic self, your honest self.”