Bodega Country Store owner Ariel Coddington and her partner, Bradley Mills, in front of the damage. (Photo/Jerry Dodrill)
Bodega Country Store owner Ariel Coddington and her partner, Bradley Mills, in front of the damage. (Photo/Jerry Dodrill)

Car crashes into Israeli-owned store in Bodega

An Israeli-owned general store in Sonoma County was destroyed on the night of Aug. 28 after a driver slammed through the shop’s front doors, plowed through much of the merchandise inside and fled the scene.

“It’s pretty crazy,” said Ariel Coddington, who owns the Bodega Country Store located on Bodega Highway, about a half-mile from Highway 1. “Unbelievable.”

She estimates the car hit the store at 50 miles per hour, twice the speed limit in the area.

Coddington, 39, who moved from Israel to the United States in 2002, said she plans to rebuild the shop. Her partner, Bradley Mills, started a GoFundMe on Aug. 30 to help with the recovery. So far, the fundraiser has brought in over $10,000, with a $100,000 goal.

The incident is particularly unfortunate because Labor Day is usually one of the busiest times for the store, said Mills, 43, who is from Sonoma County.

Originally from a kibbutz in the Golan Heights, Coddington opened the general store in 2018. It’s located in a historic building from the mid-1800s and sells specialty foods such as wine, cheese and bread from local purveyors.

Coddington and Mills attend Sonoma County Chabad Jewish Center in Santa Rosa and have an 18-month-old baby, with another due in January.

Beta fish Max miraculously survived the crash by "inches." (Photo/Jerry Dodrill)
Beta fish Max miraculously survived the crash by “inches.” (Photo/Jerry Dodrill)

They live just a half-mile from the store and heard the crash. Mills checked the store’s internal cameras from home and saw the car inside the store. He immediately went to take pictures.

“​​It was like walking into a nightmare,” said Mills, who said the mezuzah on the front door came off during the crash and still hasn’t been found. “Total destruction. Just one big pile.”

Miraculously, the store’s beta fish named Max survived the incident by mere “inches,” said Mills. However, a tank with nine other fish was destroyed.

While Coddington does have insurance for her business, she’s waiting on an estimate for the financial damages. The building is owned by Tom Bonfigli and his sister, who according to the Santa Rosa Press Democrat plan on rebuilding.

Coddington is also considering seeking help from Hebrew Free Loan of San Francisco, which provides interest-free loans for a variety of needs. She received a $50,000 small-business loan from the nonprofit in April of 2018 to jumpstart the general store.

According to California Highway Patrol spokesman David deRutte, a gray Jeep Cherokee traveling eastbound on Bodega Highway drove into the shop at 9:35 p.m. Witnesses at the scene observed a male driver exit the vehicle and flee. According to deRutte, a female was in the passenger seat when authorities arrived and the vehicle is registered to her.

The female told authorities she had been the one driving, but the CHP spokesperson said investigators believe she is covering for the suspected driver. The female was sober at the scene and authorities are looking into whether the suspected driver was under the influence of alcohol.

At the moment, the incident is being investigated as a hit and run. The male driver has yet to be identified.

Gabriel Greschler

Gabriel Greschler is a staff writer at J. You can reach him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @ggreschler.