|Part of Cotati’s charm gone with Tama Rama’s closing
Locals volunteered to help keep business going while owner recovered in hospital
Once lit and warm for more than 18 hours of the day, the windows of Tama Rama’s in Downtown Cotati are now empty and darkened, marking the closure of a 25-year-old family business. Judy Bailey, unable to work because of complications after back surgery in June, was forced to sell her corner unit despite a collective effort from the community to keep it open.
Everyone you ask will describe Bailey as having “plenty of heart,” an attitude that ran unbiased to any patron who crossed her doors to gaze upon the collage-like walls, whether it be the regular morning coffee crowd utilizing the chess table outside or the late-night pub-goers looking for a snack. It was unusual to pass by and see the doors of her shop closed, which is what makes the vacant building now appear more forlorn.
“It definitely represents a little bit of a loss of Cotati,” notes Robin, who has owned Gravenstones next door for more than 30 years. “There are no chains down here, so you can actually meet the people who own these places, who work there. It’s sad to see that go.”
Currently in recovery in a Santa Rosa hospital, before an infection brought on by her surgery, Bailey continued to run Tama Rama’s with the help of some locals, including Christopher Fell and his girlfriend, who would work after their own jobs were done to keep it alive. The problem remained that it was Judy’s place, she was the machine behind its activity, and customers usually visited with the expectancy of seeing her behind the counter.
“She’s one of many characters in Cotati. She ran an ice cream store that made no sense for over 20 years,” says local Eric Kirschmann of the business’ distinct disposition. “It’s part of a unique circumstance and symbolizes the background of Cotati.”
Aside from her ability to greet those at any hour of the day with a hodge-podge of amenities, some food and a smile, Bailey ran her shop for the sake of her community, not necessarily to make a hearty income.
“She couldn’t really ever say no to anybody,” says Robin. She expresses her hope that something small and local will take the space Bailey once filled with ice cream, late night snacks and an old movie, possibly a bakery or ice cream shop. “She did things a lot of people don’t do anymore. You can’t go into Subway and ask for credit, but you could go to Judy and ask for a sandwich and ask to pay later. It’s a small town way of doing things.”
People often ask what attributes to the definition of a “small town” and whether or not Cotati fits into such a category. Is it walking into your favorite bar and recognizing a friend behind the counter, or maybe ordering a sandwich without being bombarded by cliqued slogans and brand logos? Or knowing as a shop owner that if you fell ill someone would pick up the slack without the thought of profit, but because that’s what neighbors do.
Whatever the components, it is clear that Judy Bailey’s little corner store, the one named for her daughter, Tamara, was a piece of it.