Elly Ruge grew up in the automotive world and she’s definitely firing on all cylinders these days as the owner of Cowichan Auto Repair.
The latest honour for Ruge and her team at Cowichan Auto Repair came when her Duncan business earned top spot in the automotive category at the 19th Annual Grant Thornton LLP Vancouver Island Business Excellence Awards held in Nanaimo.
Grant Thornton LLP is the Title Sponsor of the Awards, RBC Royal Bank is a Gold Sponsor and Black Press was a Platinum Medium Sponsor of the awards put on by the Business Examiner.
“My dad had an auto business in Paris, Ontario and I’ve been around cars all my life,” explains Ruge, who has been operating Cowichan Auto Repair for almost three years.
Ruge, who won the Duncan Cowichan Chamber of Commerce’s Black Tie Award for Customer Service in 2017, was heavily involved in racing and navigating in international competitions and it was during this time that the concept for Cowichan Auto Repair began to form.
“It was in international rallies in other countries that I observed how they maintain their cars and when I opened here it was because of my background in racing and what I had learned.”
Along the way she began to realize there was a niche that wasn’t being served — an auto repair business that would cater to women.
Part of what has set Cowichan Auto Repair apart from the competition are Ruge’s Women & Wheels Workshops that have been well-attended by women eager to learn more about what their vehicles are all about.
“It’s designed to educate, enlighten and empower women,” says Ruge who has shared her knowledge with dozens of women including some young Girl Guides who were keen to learn more about a subject they knew nothing about.
“We teach them about basic things like tire pressure, oil changes and maintenance.”
Cowichan Auto Repair has eight employees at its Chaster Road location just off the Trans Canada Highway in an area that has become something of an automotive hub. Dancia Motors and Kal Tire are located nearby.
Mazzei Electric of Nanaimo and Victoria was named Business of the Year for over 50 employees at the Vancouver Island Business Excellence Awards. There were 85 finalists for the annual celebration of the best of the best in Island business, and 17 different categories.
“Every year there are some amazing success stories that are told at this event,” notes Mark MacDonald of Business Examiner, which coordinates the event.
Category winners are:
• Automotive: Cowichan Auto Repair of Duncan
• Brewery: Twin City Brewing of Port Alberni
• Construction/Development/Real Estate: Tectonica of Nanaimo
• Entrepreneur: McTavish Academy of Art of Saanich
• Food & Food Production: Urban Bee Honey Farm of Victoria
• Green: J. Zsiros Contracting of Courtenay
• Health Care: Bayshore Home Health of Saanich
• Hospitality: Crystal Cove Beach Resort of Tofino
• Manufacturer: VMAC Air of Nanaimo
• Professional: Waymark Architecture of Victoria
• Retail: M & N Mattress of Parksville
• Technology: Trich Analytics of Victoria
• Tourism: Surf Sister Surf School of Victoria
• Trades: Westcom Plumbing & Gas of Sooke
• Wood Products: D&H Woodworks of Sooke
• Small Business: VI Creature Teachers of Campbell River