The Small Sonoma County Town of Cotati
Cotati is home to a particular breed of entrepreneur: those fiercely independent souls who nevertheless understand the value of being a part of a supportive community. Shop owners often voluntarily take time to help others who are just starting out with their own ventures. Restaurants and pubs also serve as supportive centers for local music and art. This kind of camaraderie and cooperative spirit is the stuff of “Small Town America” at its best.
Downtown Cotati is loosely centered around a lovely hexagonal park, one of only two in the country. It was created in the late 1800s on land owned by the Page family, with each of the six streets abutting the park named after a son of that family.
And now this lively center of town hosts summer events including a weekly farmer’s market and a jazz festival, an Oktoberfest celebration, and an immensely popular Accordion Festival. Then, as now, the town is also proud of its handsome American Craftsman style train station. More than 100 years ago it served as a hub for shipping produce out of the county; it now brings visitors into town via the SMART train connection.
A walk downtown offers a quirky and artistic collection of independent shops, eateries and businesses:
The Redwood Cafe is clearly the neighborhood meeting place — and an excellent spot to pick up breakfast, lunch, or dinner along with bit of local flair. You’ll find gatherings of students, retired folks, farmers, or small business people all chatting with the staff and making themselves comfy next to the fireplace or sunny windows.
While you’re there, you can also check out a substantial collection of work by local artists, purchase signed books by Sonoma County authors, or stick around for dinner followed by nightly music and dancing.
Flagship Taproom is located right off the central park. They offer 20 rotating brews on tap, two ciders, and four sours on any given night, plus a kitchen for lunches to late dinners.
The staff is friendly and welcoming, as befits a business that was started by five childhood friends who grew up together in Sonoma County, and who also happen to love local craft beers and soul satisfying pub grub.
Cotati shopping has to include the Bow N Arrow Clothing store that features really, really fun fashions that manage to appeal to multiple generations, from Sonoma State University students to their moms.
Mercedes Hernandez, the owner and fashion maven, has a creative eye for hip, versatile, and comfortable looks that fit in with workplace or weekend plans. And best of all … the prices. I found luxuriously soft, chunky sweaters in deeply plush chenille for $39, and a suede jacket that could do double duty either as a jacket or jeans top for $42. The finds are pretty amazing.
At the other end of town is something entirely different, but remarkable in its own way. El Caballo De Oro (the “Golden Horse”) Western Wear features a treasure trove of beautifully crafted shirts, sombreros, and Stetson hats, as well as a spectacular boot collection curated from across the country and Mexico.
The owner, Hector Gutierrez, is a gracious presence who thoroughly enjoys sharing the history, craft, and artistry of his wares. Every piece echoes the incredible handwork involved in its creation, from hand-tooled and hand-stitched leathers to the beautifully embroidered shirts for men, women, and kids.
And don’t miss stopping by the Sandalady. Tucked in a tiny shop no bigger than a standard office cubicle is a woman who has been mending baseball gloves for the last 40 years. Fran Fleet sits at her sewing machine surrounded by gloves … professional gloves, little league gloves, old gloves, new gloves, and every kind of baseball glove imaginable.
She is so revered by glove owners that out-of-state players mail her their precious gloves for repair. In fact, if you have any interest in the art of an independent craftsperson, or in the history of glove design, or if you’re simply a fan of baseball, stop by for a visit. She is really a town treasure and well worth stopping by to enjoy her stories.
So there you have it. A small town with a world of fun options for spending the afternoon, Cotati is located just off Highway 101, north of Petaluma. Go to the Cotati Chamber of Commerce site for a map and all the events and new businesses in town.