|Downtown Cotatiís unique corner spot
Tamaramaís, after 26 years, still has its own raffish way of achieving mercantile success
Tamarama’s been at the corner of Charles Street and Old Redwood Highway in downtown Cotati for so long a period there should be someone, somewhere, thinking about a bronze plaque for its wall, if they can find a blank spot on it.
The corner has a long and significant historical background, true. It’s had a mixed assortment of stores and offices in the rather raffish building, but then, Tamarama’s not exactly the spiffy mercantile store cities can point to with pride.
This doesn’t bother Judy Bailey.
She bought the former Le Corner shop in 1987, nearly 26 years ago, and changed the name to Tamarama in honor of her daughter, Tamara.
Chilidogs, toys and vinyl LPs
Judy Bailey describes the contents of her store as “stuff.” When a customer tells her they’re looking for something the store doesn’t have, she tells them she’ll get it and they return to pick it up. Say, you’re looking for a chilidog, BLT or burrito, Judy can do.
This applies to a large collection of used books she’s proud of (“I love to read.”), vintage vinyl LPs, CDs, VHS tapes, cuddly furry toy animals, ice cream by the cone or carton, Thanksgiving Company’s roasted coffee beans, greeting cards, burritos, smoothies, lollipops, licorice sticks, soda pop (no beer or wine), and a lengthy mélange of odds and ends you’d be hard-pressed to find in a megastore unless you had in-store assistance.
Shelves and cabinets with “stuff” nearly reach the ceiling. Odd pieces of carpeting are underfoot and a small dining area has four tables and chairs. Another table has a chess set on top ready for action. On warm spring and summer days, the chess set is outside on tables in front.
Not exactly an MBA example
Here’s how it works: Tamarama has an accumulation of “stuff” Bailey decided she needed for her patrons. Naturally, it grows every year. You won’t find this formula of urban mercantile success in the curriculum at Harvard business management classes dealing out MBAs by the shovelful.
She doesn’t have a computer in her store, and a routine chore such as compiling an inventory would be an accountant’s nightmare. She has a computer at home, “but I don’t use it very often.”
Tamarama’s exterior design would never win any architectural awards or appear on Cotati postcards extolling the city’s charms. But undoubtedly, it fills a need for Cotatians and out-of-town visitors.
She’s here 12 hours a day
“I’m a night owl,” she admits. “I don’t really open until 2:30 or 3 in the afternoon and stay here until 2:30 or 3 the next morning. I’m here 12 hours a day, seven days a week and sometimes until after 3 a.m. when people are wandering the sidewalks after the bars close.”
It’s a tough schedule for a 67-year-old woman. She’s not a big woman, on the heavy-set side, and moves about with the aid of a walker. Her usual chair is right behind the counter with all the ice cream containers at her elbow. If a customer’s looking for something special she pops to her feet to help them find it.
5 kids, 6 grandkids and 2 great-grand kids
Judy Bailey, a Canadian native, was born in Calgary, Alberta, and as the former Judy Kurhajec (“My parents were Czechoslovakian”) moved below the border and became an inspector of circuits for an electronic firm.
“My husband I used to take vacations. But I haven’t been back to Calgary since 1969. That city’s really changed, I hear,” she said.
“Robert and I have been married for 40 years. He’s my repairman and gofer, and does my shopping. We don’t see each other too much due to my hours. Maybe that’s why our marriage has lasted so long,” she laughed. “We have five adult children, six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. There wasn’t much here when we started but it quickly began to grow. It’s a good location.”
She has a hand-carved sign hanging over the counter saying, “’Psychiatrist - $7 a minute.’ A friend carved it for me.”
Not many serious calls for this service, but it fits right in with Tamarama’s ambience where customers and browsers who admire her “stuff,” walk around shelves, tables and cabinets feeling at ease.
Cotati’s quite proud of its historical background. It’s easy to get the feeling Tamarama’s slowly sliding into this category.