Buying a car can be an intimidating experience for some women, says Frontier Toyota sales rep Shayna Kemel.
"Women are more visual," Kemel said. "They want to see the vehicle and its features with their own eyes."
Kemel is one of a number of women sprinkled throughout the Frontier Toyota front-line staff (from reception through sales, the finance office, service, parts and the body shop), making the long-time Regent Avenue dealership one of the more women-friendly auto dealers in Winnipeg.
On April 2, the store is planning to proclaim its high regard for female customers and staff with "Women at the Wheel", a customer-appreciation evening at the dealership (6:30-8:30 p.m.) featuring decadent desserts and edible fruit arrangements, wine and champagne, live entertainment, gift bags, a red rose for each guest and a presentation on healthy living.
The dealership will also be showcasing the redesigned Highlander, Corolla and Rav4.
Top sales rep Margaret Morton, who has been part of Frontier Toyota's sales team for almost 15 years, said Frontier Toyota has always striven to be female-friendly.
"Marcel (Thompson, the late Frontier Toyota founding president) always promoted women in this business," she said. "This has always been a good place to work."
Of course, the first person a customer usually deals with is the receptionist. In the case of Frontier Toyota, that would be Reilly Fortescue, who started work at the dealership four months ago and praises the environment in the store as very positive.
For two of the women working at the dealership, reception was their jump-off point for advancement. Julie Johner started at reception 18 years ago. Today, she is the dealership's body-shop manager.
"Managing our body shop has had its challenges, but I've found it to be very rewarding." Johner said, noting that there are now a lot more women the body-shop trade than when she started. "It's mentally and physically stimulating."
Amanda Nagel also started in reception 12 years ago. She's now one of three female service advisors in the store, along with Danielle Bradet and Stacey Cook. Nagel has been working in the service area for 10 years.
Cook, a former legal secretary, got her feet wet in auto service working with her husband at Auto Check Inspection Services Inc. on Springfield Road and joined the Frontier Toyota service department six years ago.
"I love it here," she said. "There's a totally different vibe."
Bradet, who gained her technical experience working at Wal-Mart, came to Frontier Toyota 14 months ago.
Another female of note in the service area is Cheryl Dubeck, who works as a parts advisor. While relatively new to Frontier Toyota, Dubeck has 23 years' experience working in auto service and auto body.
In the finance office, both Kristie Wisheranko and Jocelyn McKee are relatively new to the dealership. McKee has been working in the industry for the past eight years and came to Frontier Toyota as a financial services manager a year ago.
"I had heard a lot of good things about this store," she said. "There is a sense of being family here."
Wisheranko, also a financial services manager, joined the finance office two years ago. She has 17 years' experience in the auto business.
"I've seen a lot of change in the industry," she said. "When I started, women did strictly clerical work. You would never see a woman on the sales floor or in the finance office.
"Female customers feel more at ease coming in here and seeing so many of us ladies in all areas of the store."
Readers interested in attending the "Women at the Wheel" event can contact the dealership at 204.944-6600 to RSVP.
Challenge for Life
Birchwood Chevrolet Buick GMC sales rep Michael Palay is gearing up for his fourth annual Challenge for Life walk on Saturday, June 7 to raise money fro cancer research.
"I have committed to make a difference in my life and the lives of all Manitobans and their families living with cancer," said Palay, who lost both his wife, Elana, and his father, Sydney, to cancer in 2010.
"I've joined the CancerCare Manitoba Foundation 2014 Challenge for Life 20K Walk and I'm asking for your support."
Palay noted more than 6,000 Manitobans will be diagnosed with cancer this year.
"The CancerCare Manitoba Foundation is the only organization exclusively fundraising for CancerCare Manitoba's comprehensive team of researchers and health professionals as they provide outstanding care for all Manitobans and their families living with cancer," he said.
"I've committed to raise at least $1,000 in support of CancerCare Manitoba's internationally-recognized research, treatment and patient care. Please help me to achieve my goals. Click on the CancerCare Manitoba Challenge for Life webpage and make a donation to the Challenge. I sincerely appreciate any support you are able to offer."
To date, Palay has raised more than $25,000 in donations for cancer research.