Shop View: Brown’s Automotive

Feb. 3, 2023
Take a look around this women-owned and operated Chapel Hill, North Carolina, shop.
Shop Name: Brown’s AutomotiveOwner: Tonnika Haynes  Location (city, state): Chapel Hill, N.C.Staff Size: 5  Shop Size (in square feet): 3,800 square feet + 1300-square-foot additionNumber of Bays: Five lifts, alignment rack and four floor baysAnnual Revenue ($): $1.25

If you ask Tonnika Haynes, owner of Brown’s Automotive, what attracted her to the auto care business, she’ll tell you plainly—“I'm a daddy’s girl.” 

“Whatever it took for me to be beside my dad, I was doing it,” says Haynes, who holds an ASE Service Consultant Certification and a bachelor’s degree in business administration from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro. 

Her father, William Brown, started the business in 1980 as a collision center and by 2000, he expanded into automotive repair. The elder Brown, now retired, turned over the reins to Tonnika in 2016. 

Two Kinds of Green 

From the outside, Brown’s embodies the standard look of an industrial shop. One touch Brown added to soften the look was the installation of an outdoor waiting area surrounded by flowers and green plants.  

“I have lots of green plants. I love green plants, that's my thing,” Haynes says. 

Plants also are a continuing theme inside the shop where they provide a home-like feel for her open floor plan waiting room and customer service area.  

"We have a comfortable sitting area that’s very clean for the ladies and the children,” Haynes says. “It’s got a nice feminine liberating touch to it.” 

A combination of the pandemic and an influx of new residents to Chapel Hill has given Brown’s explosive growth over the past couple of years—another form of green.  

“I know we're 20% up … that’s crazy,” Haynes says of her shop’s 2022 income. “And we are scheduled out [through] January.”  

Provisions for the Mission 

With growth comes the need for more space. Brown built an extension to handle the influx of service requests. The main shop, built in 2000, is clean despite its age. Brown says she’s strict about upkeep.  

"In the original shop we have three bays, three lifts, an alignment rack; all Hunter equipment. We've got our Hunter aligner, Hunter mount and balancer and tire mount. Behind each of the three bays, we have an additional bay,” Haynes says. 

Each tech is given a computer at their workstation to access the tools and catalogs they need for successful auto repair.  

“They have access to Identifix, ALLDATA, Mitchell, and we use Techmetric so they're able to walk themselves through the repair process. We don't do ADAS yet,” Haynes says. 

That training is coming to her techs this month through a series of structured lunch and learns.  

“We're going to start with the Car Gurus guys every other week, and then we found some online classes that we're going to participate in … [we’ll] bring lunch in and do some onsite training,” Haynes says.

About the Author

Chris Jones | Editor

Chris Jones is the editor of Ratchet+Wrench magazine and host of its companion podcast, Ratchet+Wrench Radio, a weekly show featuring automotive professionals across the auto care landscape.

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