Niki Seabright had a daunting to-do list. At the top: Fix the car and get a manicure.
Within the hour, she got both at Maxville Services in Woodbury.
The woman-owned and woman-run auto shop tailors its amenities around the motto “auto repair with flair.” Haircuts, manicures and a gift shop provide boutique-style diversions to customers like Seabright, a working mom looking for some personal and automotive TLC.
As a mechanic dismantled her driver-side door Tuesday afternoon, Seabright lazed in a salon chair in the waiting area and picked bright blue polish for her nails.
“You definitely don’t run out of things to do here while you’re waiting — that’s for sure,” said Seabright, who has been to Maxville Services three times since it opened in February. “It’s so homey.”
It’s also kid friendly. During her manicure, Seabright’s 10-year-old son and his friend played video games in the shop’s kids’ corner.
Owner Susan Moynihan had comfort and convenience in mind when she first drafted a business plan for the auto shop two years ago.
“We don’t want you stuck in this dirty, dingy place with plastic chairs where you’re extremely uncomfortable with the overall experience,” Moynihan said.
Armed with a background in marketing and eight years of experience in the auto parts industry, Moynihan wanted to create a stylish space where customers felt informed about their car repairs. Women, she said, often leave auto shops feeling hoodwinked by mysterious repairs under the hood.
“I want them to know what questions to ask,” Moynihan said.
Maxville Services offers free monthly clinics to teach customers the basics of car maintenance.
“We want to put the power back in their court,” said Dana Bona, the shop’s general manager. “Most shops just don’t take the time to explain things, and that’s where they fail.”
Bona, a transmission expert who’s run auto shops for more than 20 years, greets customers at the front counter and, if they’ve booked a beauty appointment like Seabright, shows them to the salon. But don’t let the female-driven services fool you. Bona and Moynihan insist theirs is not a “chick shop.”
“We’ve had guys call and ask if they’re allowed in here, but the idea is that everyone is welcome,” Bona said.
When customer Aaron Erhardt read about the salon services on the shop’s website, he was skeptical.
“It didn’t really appeal to me too much because I’m not a guy who gets pedicures and manicures,” said Erhardt, who owns a chiropractic clinic nearby.
He’s now been to the shop five times.
“I felt like I wasn’t being taken advantage of,” said Erhardt, who added that he regularly recommends the shop to friends.
“They may make fun of me, but once they go they say, ‘Wow, best place I’ve been to,’ ” he said.
Appealing to a broad clientele base — not just women — is part of Moynihan’s business plan.
By the end of her shop’s first year, she hopes to be servicing about 12 vehicles a day. Maxville Services now averages about five, she said.
“Some people will say that’s a really lofty goal,” Moynihan said, “but that’s my target.”