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New life for old Graton firehouse

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013 | Posted by

By BOB NORBERG

THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

A Sebastopol businessman has big plans to revitalize the old Graton fire station, where he is relocating his direct mail business and also

George Melo outside the old Graton fire station where he plans on installing a variety of businesses on Thursday, Feb. 14, 2013. (ALVIN JORNADA/ PD)

wants to put in a bike shop and coffee and pastry shop.

“We have been cleaning it out and getting the unusable stuff out, getting it ready for my use,” said George Melo, who owns Melo Mail in Santa Rosa with his wife.

Melo paid $265,000 for the former firehouse operated by the Graton Fire Protection District, which three years ago moved into a new $3.5 million station on Gravenstein Highway.

The old firehouse, a 1940s building that was formerly a gas station and train depot, sits on a half-acre parcel at Ross and Graton roads. The site is in the center of the community and adjacent to the West County Trail used by walkers, runners and cyclists.

The property had also been eyed by the Graton Green Group, a community organization that had hoped to buy it and put in a community center and park.

The group, which has $100,000 in pledges, is now looking elsewhere in Graton, founder HolLynn D’Lil said.

Melo said he will move his business into the old fire station by March 1, squeezing machinery that was housed in 6,400 square feet of space in Santa Rosa into a new space of 2,400 square feet.

A bike shop and coffee and pastry shop may take longer, but he sees those uses as a community service.

“We are thinking it will be a bike shop that would specialize in vintage bikes and also be family-oriented, so we can have kids come by and learn how to change a flat tire and change out their brakes,” Melo said.

The bike shop would satisfy his revitalized interest in cycling, while a coffee and pastry shop could be something for the community, he said.

“I want to do something that will meet the needs of the community, and a coffee shop seems to be what everyone wants,” Melo said. “We get people stopping over and hoping we will open up a coffee shop.”

Melo, who drives an all-electric Nissan Leaf, said he will put in charging stations for electric cars.

There is also the potential of re-creating a barn that was once on the property for vendors of locally produced foods, and he would like to have a Sonoma County-themed mural on the back wall of the depot.

You can reach Staff Writer Bob Norberg at 521-5206 or bob.norberg@pressdemocrat.com.

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Andrea Granahan is our West County correspondent.
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