It would be easy to look at K-Tech Automotive in Sebastapol and wax poetic about how a place like this shop has become a last male bastion.
Except that the "K" in K-Tech stands for Kate Jonasse, a mechanic whose expertise has become legendary in the community. "Kate is one of the best techs I have ever worked next to," auto mechanic Seth Montgomery said.
"I got my first car when I was 17," Jonasse said. "It was a good piece of junk. It was a pick-up and it would never start."
She grew up in Alaska, was always good at math and science, and says she never let convention hold her back from doing what she does best, "I see that as a challenge. If I want to learn something and do something, then why would my gender get in the way of me doing that?"
Jonasse opened K-Tech Automotive in 2009 in the midst of the great recession. And before long, there was so much business she needed to hire employees.
But any definition of success is relative. About a year and a half ago, Jonasse decided it wasn’t enough to merely make it as a business. She wanted the business to make a difference in the community.
Enter a 1994 Honda Civic that Jonasse bought from a customer. It’s a car that’s far from pretty. It needs a timing belt, body work, matching hubcaps, and a little TLC, all of which are superficial.
It also needs someone to write a letter that touches the hearts of Jonasse and her employees because in September they will go through the already growing piles, peruse the files, and donate the Civic to someone capable and deserving as a thank you to the community.
"You see the people who are really struggling," Montgomery said. "It’s just like any of us. Just working people just trying to get from A to B."
Jonasse adds, "I’d like to be able to give a car to everybody that needs one. I’m not able to do that. I don’t focus on what I can’t do, I focus on what I can do. And what I can do is give this vehicle to somebody and make their life brighter and hopefully make the lives of the people in their life brighter. And hopefully it will spread."
Together they will change a life — all through a car that had a bad timing belt — at just the right time.