FLUSHING, N.Y. — Audra Fordin learned her trade as a kid working under the hood of a car.
She's the fourth generation to operate Great Bear Auto Repair & Auto Body in Flushing. And she's a proponent of passing that knowledge on to anyone who wants to learn, even creating the Women Auto Know and Drivers Auto Know websites.
Ultimately, she said, she believes a smarter customer is better for business.
And in 28 years in the tire industry, she only knows of one good way to find "the right" technician.
"You make 'em," she said. "You make 'em yourself, ... and you take care of them."
Ms. Fordin has owned and operated Great Bear Auto since taking it over from her father Bill Fordin in 1998.
In 1933, her great-grandfather Oscar opened the location she runs today. Her grandfather Larry then took over, followed by her father and her. At one point, Oscar Fordin and his three brothers — and their sons — in total operated 78 Great Bear stores.
Ms. Fordin's is the last one.
Her early memories of the shop include learning how to do a wheel alignment and the little things that help solve unique problems on each vehicle.
"We used to have a wheel-alignment pit that you'd walk down to instead of using a lift, and we'd have 'quickies' gauges. You'd put these gauges on the tire, and it was like reading a thermometer to find the line," she recalled, "and we used string!
"Some of my earliest memories are of walking into the pit with quickies gauges and string."
She called fixing a vehicle "empowering."