FLUSHING, Queens (PIX11) — She’s a business owner, wife, mom of three and a master mechanic. In a field with few women, Audra Fordin is leading the pack. PIX11 News is spotlighting “Remarkable Women” this Women’s History Month.
It’s more than knowing the ins and outs of a car for Audra Fordin. It’s in her blood. “I remember Friday nights being excited to go sleep at my grandpa’s house so that we can go to work early Saturday morning,” said Fordin. “I was interested. I wanted to know about brakes and carburetors, tires and how to fix it.”
Great Bear Auto Repair and Service has been a mainstay in Flushing since 1933. Opened by Fordin’s great-grandfather, it has been family owned and operated to this day. Fordin now runs the business, the fourth-generation to do so. She has loyal customers and devoted employees
Carrie Horton has worked at Great Bear for the last year. “I’ve been in the industry for a while so working with a woman it’s definitely an inspiration,” said Horton. “As a woman going to an auto repair shop it’s intimidating, so Audra makes that very easy for women to reach out and bring the vehicles here.”
Longtime auto technician Cedric Kang says Fordin is not only his boss, but he also considers her a dear friend. “Many in this business have owners [and] most of them are men. This is the first time I met a woman who owns it and is an auto technician,” said Kang.
In fact, Fordin is a master mechanic, in a male-dominated profession. She created the nonprofit “Women Auto Know,” a series of workshops to teach women about auto repair and to gain car confidence. The sessions are free and held in places like churches, community centers and schools.
“We’re empowering, we’re educating women to be safe and knowledgeable drivers, passengers and consumers on the road and in the auto repair shop,” said Fordin.
She feels it’s equally important to educate our youth and she spearheaded a program for kids. At the Long Island Children’s Museum, there’s an exhibit dedicated to auto repair, complete with a video of Fordin explaining the basics of car care.
Her husband of 24 years and their three children are her biggest supporters.
“Yes, car is a language in our house but it’s also a passion,” said Edward Dewalters. “She saw something out there with helping not just women but really anyone out there.”
“She would show there’s strength in yourself and that if you’re determined and you have a drive and a passion you’re quite capable of doing whatever you put your mind to,” said Olivia Dewalters, Fordin’s 19-year-old daughter.
“I’m just so proud of her,” said Samantha Dewalters, Fordin’s 21-year-old daughter. “I think she embodies a lot of characteristics that I aspire to be like.”
Harvey Birnbaum nominated Fordin for PIX11’s Remarkable Women series and says she sets this example: “That you can be anything you want to be. If you want to be a technician, a mechanic, you can do that. She breaks the barriers, she broke the ceiling.”
Business owner, master mechanic, advocate, wife and mother, she wears many hats. Her 14-year-old son, Andrew Dewalters, says first and foremost, she is mom. “Driving around with her, talking and having fun conversations,” he said.
Fordin wants consumers to not overlook the female members of her profession.
“There are a lot of people coming into the trade and there’s people all over the country who are female who are wonderfully skilled professional people who are practicing,” said Fordin.