Any group, regardless of hobby, needs some sort of gathering place. A clubhouse, if you will. Having a spot where you and your like-minded peers can get together and partake in whatever makes your heart skip a beat sounds like a home away from home.
For automotive enthusiasts, that kind of place usually takes the shape of a shop or a garage with a small hangout area that’s usually cordoned off to anyone but the owner and their friends. What if we had the best of both worlds though? A public clubhouse that offered the same equipment and capabilities as a garage? Now there’s an idea that the boys over at Route Mill Valley took and ran with.
As you might expect, the founders are big fans of cars and bikes. They like learning about them and they like working on them. The only problem is that they live in San Francisco where real estate is expensive and rarer than hen’s teeth. The solution? Find that real estate you seek.
The stars aligned one day when all three of them just so happened to be strolling by a garage with a door wide open and a plethora of sports cars that tickled their fancy inside. It had a shop area right in the middle, a bar, and an upstairs floor that could accommodate a few lounge chairs and a table. It checked all the boxes AND the owners were right there, so they popped the question and a few days later, a deal was struck. The Bay Area (or Northern California) was about to have its first and only automotive clubhouse.
Sunday, March 20th was the opening weekend for the space and the excitement was high. Would people come? What would they think of the idea? It didn’t take long for it to be clear that this was bound to be a resounding success. I spoke with founders Alex, Jason, and Kevin to get a clear idea of what their vision for the future of Route Mill Valley is and how they feel about the opening weekend turnout.
“Variety was key for us,” Jason said. “We were happy to see that it wasn’t just one type of enthusiast that showed up to our opening weekend. It was a huge success overall.”
“Yeah, everyone was so supportive and engaging of the idea that we know we’re on the right track,” Alex echoed.
Even just half an hour after opening time, the space was bustling with cars from all corners of the globe. A few Porsches lined one end of the lot while the other housed some Alfa Romeos, my Z31 alongside a 240Z, and a beautifully crusty Lotus Elite Type 75. Inside was a cozy, yet spacious, garage with a lift, workbenches, a plethora of tools, and a sparkling blue Ford Escort as a centerpiece. There’s also a cute little backyard garden area with a campfire and a sauna if you feel like cracking open a cold one under the stars. The Espresso hit hard, the tunes were banging, and nobody hit a curb when they left the space. It was exactly what you’d want in a chill, car hang-out spot. And the good news is they plan on doing more!
As of now, the event schedule looks like this: four recurring events a month with a public cars & coffee event on the first Sunday of the month. The other three events will be private members-only events like happy hours, wine tasting, and the sort. They also plan on hosting larger events on a quarterly basis like autocross, track days, and even campervan adventures for those of us who prefer a blue sky to a popcorn ceiling.
The most important way to communicate what we’re doing is that we’re a team of people who have wanted this our whole lives,” Kevin added. “We have a connection to the core product and the things that it will provide to people with the same passion. We are working on this from the ground up and coming in with a belief that everyone should have a space to feel safe, welcomed, and supported. Noticing a lack of such a space gives us the reason to do this.”
The guys are getting live feedback from their audience and making changes based on that feedback.
“We’re not interested in building a product no one’s asking for,” Kevin said.
As for my take, I’m over the moon. Having a space like this within an hour and a half’s drive from my house is something I had been looking for since I began my automotive writing journey with Drivetribe. It’s like an all-in-one cars & coffee that happens every day with a garage thrown in the mix! Not to mention that I’m a big fan of their aesthetics. They’ve got that nice mix of vintage and modern that fits together like a perfectly cut puzzle piece.
If you’re in the Bay Area and need a place that serves coffee, has comfy couches, and sexy cars to boot, hit up Route Mill Valley and maybe even get a membership while you’re at it. I look forward to attending more events and collaborating on future projects!