Lindsey Ladd is sitting in the office of Yotaluma, the realization of husband Ryan’s long-held dream – to operate his own auto repair shop.
“We lived on Edith Street,” she said, gesturing west, just a block away from the northwest corner of Wilson and East D streets where Yotaluma is located. “We walked and rode our bikes downtown all the time and we’d pass this corner.”
“This would be the perfect place to have my shop,” Ryan told her.
The couple eventually moved to the west side, out in the country, but the dream remained. “I drove by in July,” recalled Lindsay, 32, “and there was a tiny For Rent sign.” Ryan contacted owner Leo Lavio, who asked what he wanted to open on the site. Ryan said, “I’ve been wanting to own an auto shop for six years.”
The corner site has been a gas or service station since the late ‘60s, Lindsay said, and Lavio wanted that continuity. “Ryan was the only person who said that was why he wanted to rent it.”
Ryan, 36, has been working under car hoods for 20 years. And although Yotaluma specializes in Toyota, Lexus and Scion models, “he can fix anything with a motor,” Lindsey said. And he’s Toyota factory-trained.
Ryan also worked for Petaluma’s Out West Garage. He doesn’t want to compete for business. He and Out West owner Maria DoCeu regard it as more of a team effort and will pass on jobs they don’t specialize in to the other firm. Also, Lindsey pointed out, “there isn’t a lot of competition in the auto repair business in Petaluma. We all seem to do well.”
He had also been working after hours and on weekends on cars of family, friends and friends of friends. “It felt like I was running two businesses,” he said. “It was time. So many people wanted me to open my own place.”
Early response has been fantastic, Lindsey said, “far better than we expected. Now when you’re busy, it’s a good thing.”
If you’re wondering where the intriguing name comes from, it’s a blend of Toyota and Petaluma, a city both thoroughly like. “I really like it here. It’s so easy to live in,” Lindsay said. She was a San Diego girl until she tired of the “rat race,” as she called it, and came north. Ryan’s a local guy – he grew up in Sebastopol and Novato.
While he does the repairs, she’s also part of the firm, involved “as much as I can be” in marketing and advertising, organizing and bookkeeping in addition to caring for Lorelai, 6, and Marshall, 9 months. As a result, the cozy office has a child-oriented feel, with a playpen for Marshall and toys for his sister.
It’s got a welcoming, appealing Mom-and-Pop style to it, and that’s deliberate, Lindsay said. “We want to make this a family business – Petaluma is so kid-friendly.” They’ve not only got plans for a book exchange and a kids’ corner, but she’s an enthusiastic gardener and is eager to fill in the patches of dirt on the property with good soil and compost so she can start growing vegetables. “I’d like people to be able to come in and help themselves.”
For now, though – with three growing children – at just 2 months, Yotaluma is very much their baby – they’ve got plenty of time to make Ryan’s dream a firm reality.
Yotaluma is located at 296 Wilson St. Hours are 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays. Call 773-1043 or visit yotaluma.com.