Dream to Reality: Matthews Opens Own Auto Repair Shop
Allen Matthews has opened the county seat’s first ever black-owned and operated auto repair shop.
On Jan. 16, Done Rite Auto rolled its bay doors open in the Salmon Motors building across from Food Lion next door to Hardee’s. Most repair shops close at 5 p.m. , and few open at all on weekends. Done Rite is open until 6:30 p.m. weekdays and until 3 p.m. Saturday.
“I’m hungry,” Matthews said with a laugh.
Carthage is a family town for the Manhattan-born mechanic. Matthews grew up in the big city. He studied mechanics at famed Theodore Roosevelt High School in the Bronx.
“My granddad — the one that lived down here — had a moving company in Little Italy,” Matthews said. “They were the only black people in Little Italy at the time. That is why my mother and I still go to Little Italy — to get food! Little Italy has the best cold cuts in the world.”
The Matthewses moved to Carthage from Raleigh six years ago when he and his wife, Danita, both went to work at Fox Hollow Senior Living, where she is still head of medical technology.
He served as the assisted living facility’s maintenance chief. A year ago, he started to set plans in place to bring a dream to reality — opening his own shop in Carthage.
Allen and Danita Matthews have three children: Daquan, 13, an eighth-grader at Cranes Creek; 16-year-old Trey, who is in the Navy Junior ROTC at Union Pines; and daughter Falon, 24, a student at Lincoln University in Oxford, Pa. — the nation’s first degree-grant-ing historically black university.
“My family is from here,” he said. “My granddaddy is from Carthage. I stay on his property now. My uncle is here, all the Matthewses are from here, but I was born in Manhattan. I came down 20 years ago.”
He came to Fayetteville, where he found a guide in another Matthews — John Matthews. They became friends when he worked for the older mechanic, and John Matthews is still the man he calls for advice.
“He is my mentor,” Allen Matthews said.
He said he tries to pass what he has learned along to others. He currently teaches senior citizens and others a class in basic car care at St. Mary’s church in Needmore. For a decade, he had been coming to town at the request of his late aunt, Virginia Drake Matthews. She had asked him to bring his continuing education class to her church, St. John’s United Church of God.
“I started it in Raleigh when I was doing auto repair there,” Matthews said. “The churches named it. They called it Mechanics 101 or ‘How Not to Get Ripped Off at the Shop’ — it’s what everybody needs to know about their car. I would bring a car, a little tape and film, and show them some things. Single women and elderly people get taken in.”
A common situation is an overheated car. Unscrupulous shops can take advantage of ignorance, Matthews said.
“When car is overheating, nine times out of 10, it’s the thermostat,” he said. “They were simply taking advantage when they don’t know some basic things like getting more than one opinion. You have a mother, a sister and a brother — you don’t want them to pay for an engine when all they need is a thermostat.”
Knowing just a few basic things about an automobile can a help a car owner keep from being cheated, Matthews said.
“Last year, in Raleigh, they had hundreds of complaints from people who’d been taken advantage of,” he said. “One lady paid $1,700 for a head gasket that had not been replaced. All they’d changed was the thermostat, because her car was overheating — cost $5. That gives mechanics a bad name. We go through alternators, thermostats and things. Those are things that go wrong with your car.”
As far as Matthews has been able to discover, Done Rite is the first black-owned repair shop in town. He wants it to build a good reputation from the start.
“I know that if you do good things, you can sleep at night,” he said. “I like to be able to sleep at night and wake up in the morning feeling good. You are going to have bad days with any job, any business — but treat people well, that’s the bottom line.”
Contact John Chappell at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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