Angela Scalla-Johnson remembers well the day she realized she wasn't her father's favorite.
It was Sept. 1, 2009, and she and her dad, Henry, were at a Chattanooga bank to close her purchase of his Midas auto-repair shop on Market Street.
"We're signing the paperwork," Scalla-Johnson says. "The bank manager looks at my dad and says, 'Henry, you look upset.' My dad says, 'Well, I'm losing my baby.'
"The manager says, 'Henry, [Angela's] still your daughter.' My dad says, 'No, I mean the store,'" she says.
Scalla-Johnson had worked for her dad for the previous five years but, just like that, she became the boss.
"It was a clean break," she says. "My dad would do anything for me, but when I signed the paperwork, I was on my own. I'd call him for advice if I needed help, but not on day-to-day issues."
More than a decade later, in 2020, Scalla-Johnson's shop ranked 15th in total sales in Midas' Southeast region, which includes five states.
"We work as a team," she says. "I have three master technicians I depend on, including one with 35 years and one with 33 years. It's rare to have that much experience in one shop."
Her role is important, but it's not mechanical, she adds.
"I'm not out in the bays working. To me, it kind of helps that I'm not a mechanic. I try to explain things to customers at a non-mechanical level," she says.
Scalla-Johnson acknowledges that, even in 2021, some people find it unusual to see a woman running an auto-repair shop.
"You'll see women at a front desk, but very few owners," she says. "I've had salesmen come in, introduce themselves and say, 'Can I talk to your husband?' I don't let things like that bother me.
"The last statistic I heard was that around 54 percent of people who bring vehicles in for service are women, so I like to think they'd be comfortable seeing a woman manager in that situation," she says.
Todd Matthews, who owns and operates the Midas location on Brainerd Road, says Scalla-Johnson has more than enough game for the gig.
"She's got that family history [with Midas] and is not intimidated at all," Matthews says. "She knows what she's doing. And she's not my competition – I think of her more as a partner. The previous manager [here] didn't see the benefit of franchisees getting along, but there's no reason not to have a good relationship."
Originally from Austin, Texas, Scalla-Johnson's family moved to Chattanooga in 1982. That was the year her dad, who'd been working for Midas corporate in Pennsylvania, bought the Market Street shop.
Scalla-Johnson graduated from Red Bank High School and earned an undergraduate degree in business from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. She was working in health care management when she decided to change course.
"I wanted to get into business ownership," she says.
Scalla-Johnson says that transition was complicated by the fact that, when she took over on Market Street, her husband, a former active-duty U.S. Marine, was doing contract work in Iraq and Afghanistan for the U.S. State Department.
"He'd be gone three or four months at a time, so I was running the business and raising our kids by myself," she says. "I learned that the middle of the night is a peaceful, really productive time to catch up on paperwork."
Scalla-Johnson says she and her husband are about to be empty-nesters. Their older son lives in Washington, D.C., their younger son is a Marine at boot camp, and their daughter is headed to the University of Mississippi – as is Scalla-Johnson herself.
"I'd like to look at becoming a multi-shop owner," she says. "I had a midlife crisis recently and enrolled in an online MBA program at Ole Miss."
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