Smooth Ride Driving School.
Startup date: February 2009
Address: 30 S. Wenatchee Avenue, Suite A, Wenatchee
Nancy Godshall is out to prove students can learn to take off and stop a car smoothly if given the proper instruction, hence the name of her new business, Smooth Ride Driving School.
Located in the basement of the Bank of America building at 30 S. Wenatchee Ave., Wenatchee, God shall put the finishing touches on the space in January. She has room for 30 students in the 528-square-foot classroom, plus a 484-square-foot auxiliary room with a driving simulator and study space. She pays $600 a month for the space, which was leased by Don Newman of Newman Properties. She shares the basement with one other tenant.
Newman has had the listings on both the downtown and North Wenatchee Avenue Bank of America buildings, and also the Quincy location since last year. All three have space left to lease. Newman said the bank sold many of its branches to outside investors, and those investors are wanting to get the buildings filled up. In all three" cases, the banks aren't using all the space they have.
Godshall said she looked at the other spaces Newman has available upstairs, but chose the lower level area to keep startup costs low.
Godshall spent around $3,000 in tuition to attend Central Washington University's Traffic Safety Education summer semester program. During those classes, taught by CWU instructors Scott Calahan and Alex Hansen, Godshall said she learned a lot of things about her own driving. She got teaching experience while at CWU as well.
Godshall also learned how to teach more than just the basics what's required to pass the driver's exam--and focus on safety. Her classes will run 30 hours of classroom education, six hours behind the wheel, and 50 hours driving with a parent or other experienced driver. The course lasts five weeks, and costs $450, which she said is in line with the going rate. The vehicle she is currently using is a 2000 Toyota Echo. She had it inspected by the dealership, which cost about $150, and had a second brake and two mirrors put in for about $400. One of the mirrors allows her to watch the student driver's eyes, and the other to watch behind the vehicle.
If students, or even their parents, are game, they can try the new Simulator Systems International (SSI), which keeps track of what drivers are and aren't doing, then gives a print-out at the end to show what items need to be worked on. It can also simulate hazardous driving conditions, so students get experience with them before they head out on the road. The simulator cost her about $5,000, and came with pedals, a steering wheel, computer, monitor, software and printer. It offers different levels of difficulty for all ranges of drivers.
Right now, she is starting Out with high school students, but she said eventually she will branch out into senior citizen instruction as well, In short, anybody who is eager to learn more about driving.
In her former life, Godshall worked as a juvenile rehabilitation counselor at the Canyon View Group Home in East Wenatchee for 10 years. So she's used to working with kids. But the big change with the driving school is she will be *teaching kids who really want to be there, and who really want to learn.
"That's exciting to me, that prospect," she said. "Attitude is everything." Just as it can affect learning, it also affects driving, she cautioned. "The huge thing is to be courteous when you're driving. Things would go smoother if everybody was thus the name Smooth Ride."
Working with the state Department of Licensing to get her licenses wasn't as smooth as she would have liked. She had to pass a driving instructor test, a background check, take a test on rules, and get fingerprinted to become a licensed instructor. To get the school licensed, the paperwork included submitting all of her curriculum to have it approved by the DOL. She figures she spent around $600 for the licenses. So while she was waiting those few months for the red tape to clear, Godshall spent some time with Mary and Jeff Hansen, former owners of Hansen's School of Driving, which closed in November 2007. She talked shop with them and tried to learn from their experience about what running a school is like.
"They were very supportive," she said.
With Godshall's new business, there are again three schools in the Valley: The Art of Driving, Afoot No More, and now Smooth Ride.