The Art Deco beauty still serving the Yass community

Judith Davidson 8 October 2021 34
Vintage car outside Tootsie cafe in Yass

Tootsie, the 1929 GF Chevy Tourer, arriving at Tootsie, the cafe in Yass. Photo: Supplied.

It takes courage and imagination to start a business in a disused former service station that stood empty for 20 years, but that is exactly what Cayla Pothan has done with Tootsie gallery cafe in Yass.

When she bought the property in 2015, not only was the building derelict but the old inground petrol tanks had to be removed.

The original 1936 service station plans showed the Art Deco ‘bones’ of the building behind the peeling paint and ugly metal awning.

The Hume Service Station was built on old brick pits which provided bricks for many buildings in Yass. What looks like a single storey building was built in the excavated pit, a perfect arrangement for creating a mechanics inspection pit without having to dig. As a result, Tootsies has a substantial basement beneath the existing building.

The facade of the building was completely rebuilt to the original plans.

“When Caltex bought the service station in 1969, they modernised it by removing the whole original front and putting up a huge metal awning,” says Cayla. “We have put it back to how it looked from 1937 to 1969.”

Cayla sourced a concreter with the skills to restore the Art Deco facade. Its paintwork now emphasises the lovely lines of this charming building, making it difficult to believe it was ever a service station.

The Hume Service Station provided one of the first 24-hour services between Sydney and Melbourne with some effort from the family of manager Lew Daniel, who lived onsite.

As the main bedroom occupied the front room of the living quarters that was incorporated into the building, an overnight traveller simply had to knock on the bedroom window to have sleepy, but obliging, Lew fill his tank.

Truckie shower facilities also operated at the rear of the building so Lew’s four children were not allowed to play out the back. To compensate, table tennis was set up in the old workshop section of the building. Soon regular table tennis competitions drew in children from Yass, and friends were made and the four Daniel children were often visitors for games in friends’ backyards.

Cayla Pothan outside Tootsie gallery and cafe in Yass

Cayla Pothan and concrete sheep sculptures by Roger Buckmaster. Photo: Supplied.

The name Tootsie echoes the Art Deco theme, but the origins of the naming are far more interesting than that.

When Cayla was little and visiting her grandfather at Berridale, she loved to play in his 1929 GF Chevy Tourer parked down the paddock. It became her refuge and a metaphorical escape to magical places.

When the car was still in use, her grandmother used to describe outings as ‘tootsying’ along, perhaps a modification of tootling along, and the car had its name, Tootsie.

Tootsie became a special place for young Cayla’s imaginative forays into marvellous places, so much so that her grandfather decided the car was Cayla’s when she was 10 years old.

It’s obvious from the moment you walk into Tootsie cafe and gallery that Cayla’s imagination and artistic creative spirit has made it a rather marvellous place, too. Mosaiced mannequins greet you, and vibrant colour and artworks leap off the walls.

Rather than just being a coffee shop, this is a meeting place for the community and a workshop space where Cayla teaches mosaic, painting, art and wellbeing. Cayla’s inspiration and decision making are guided by her golden rule of “what could you do in the world to make a difference?”

She encourages participants in her workshops to join with her in expressing their true colours and living from the heart.

Out the back is no longer a truckies’ shower facility, but a fabulous garden space filled with sculptures and mosaics, part of a massive project with individual mosaics donated from all around the world and installed by Cayla.

There’s also a gelato bar, the only one of its kind in Yass.

As the bronze lady on the wall trumpets, Tootsie is a place to connect, inspire and grow. To find out the significance of that, it’s best to drop in some time or get a copy of Cayla’s soon-to-be-published book, Building in Bronze.

Oh, and the coffee and cakes are pretty good, too.

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34 Responses to The Art Deco beauty still serving the Yass community
Jen Wittwer Jen Wittwer 3:42 pm 13 Oct 21

Louise Armour, next lunch date?

Candice Field Candice Field 7:31 pm 11 Oct 21

Tabea Berkowitz Silvia Berkowitz Sunday lunch one day soon?

    Tabea Berkowitz Tabea Berkowitz 7:59 pm 11 Oct 21

    Candice Field sounds great!!! 🥰🥰

    Silvia Berkowitz Silvia Berkowitz 8:05 pm 11 Oct 21

    Candice Field would be lovely 🥰 is your lock down going to the end of this month??

    Candice Field Candice Field 8:28 pm 11 Oct 21

    Silvia Berkowitz I think so. Fingers crossed 🤞🏼

Julie Giucci Julie Giucci 6:48 pm 11 Oct 21

Fantastic. Will you have anything gluten free.

    Cayla Pothan Cayla Pothan 1:23 pm 12 Oct 21

    Yes! About 19 of our 24 gelato are gluten free, we have gluten free cones too,we have gluten free jaffles cooked on a separate jaffle maker, gluten free biscuits

Amy McDermott Amy McDermott 3:33 pm 11 Oct 21

Love the tootsie gallery …!,

Sally Bracey Sally Bracey 12:56 pm 11 Oct 21

Nancy Santos day trip!

Shaanan Donohoo Shaanan Donohoo 11:12 pm 10 Oct 21

Casey Crockford Philippa Reville road trip?

    Philippa Reville Philippa Reville 8:35 am 11 Oct 21

    Shaanan Donohoo I've driven past so many times and thought must stop there next time😄

Margaret Reeson Margaret Reeson 10:35 pm 10 Oct 21

An exceptional host in a very attractive setting.

Christina May Francis Christina May Francis 10:16 pm 10 Oct 21

Jacintha Francis maybe a day trip idea.

Robyn Holder Robyn Holder 4:21 pm 10 Oct 21

Looking forward to a Sunday drive and afternoon tea. We used to do this when our girls were little. Also looking forward to the art deco.

Aingeal Ui Dhoibhlin Aingeal Ui Dhoibhlin 3:57 pm 10 Oct 21

Look forward to visiting Yass.

    Cayla Pothan Cayla Pothan 1:31 pm 12 Oct 21

    It’s a beautiful town. Definitely worth the trip

Kathy Coombe Kathy Coombe 2:57 pm 10 Oct 21

A nice little road trip Nanna Pa!

Anthony Burr Anthony Burr 2:01 pm 10 Oct 21

It looks awesome

Anna Glover Anna Glover 11:07 am 10 Oct 21

A beautiful space..well worth a visit.

Frederick Burman Frederick Burman 10:30 am 10 Oct 21

Well done Cayla, these Art Deco buildings should be preserved and restored for another use, as you have done.

Jaffa Groube Jaffa Groube 9:47 am 10 Oct 21

Is Roger a relative of the aptly named former rabbit inspector Buckmaster.

Meredith Mackenzie Meredith Mackenzie 9:11 am 10 Oct 21

Thanks for sharing…another reason for taking the exit lane off the freeway🙂👍

Michele Gorman Michele Gorman 8:26 am 10 Oct 21

Have to go for a ride, looks great. Robert Gorman Robyn Lohse Allan Lohse Max Walker Nicole Walker

Anna Blore Taylor Anna Blore Taylor 7:56 am 10 Oct 21

Leigh Southwell, this looks like the perfect destination for a day trip in some cool, old cars.

    Leigh Southwell Leigh Southwell 8:05 am 10 Oct 21

    Anna Blore Taylor that's a great idea! I'm sure Adam Valladares would love this!

    Leigh Southwell Leigh Southwell 6:03 pm 11 Oct 21

    Anna Blore Taylor I think Jason Moore would also love to tag along!

    Anna Blore Taylor Anna Blore Taylor 6:52 pm 11 Oct 21

    Leigh Southwell I was wondering the same thing.

Janet Ilchef Janet Ilchef 7:32 am 10 Oct 21

I’ll go to Yass just for that servo/gallery!

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