Vol. 11, No. 9 – Jan 31 – Feb 13, 2018 – Person to Person

by Jennifer Tipton

I asked 6 Ventura business owners –
“How did the Thomas Fires affect your business?”

Michelle Rein
owner of passion flowers 920 East Main Street
“December was cancelled, everything cancelled, there was no December business. We were without power on this section of Main for four days; for some businesses, food was lost, but we’re just flowers so we were ok. We re-opened December 8th, but there was no business, people just wanted to come in to share their stories, talk and hug. And then with the closing of the 101, some brides couldn’t get here, most of my business was people sending thankyou flowers. As I clean up the ash, I try to be respectful – this ash was somebody’s home.”

The future? “We’re still gonna be here, we’ll make it through, we’re Ventura Strong!”

Sharon Palmer
owner of Main Street Meats Ventura 3049 East Main Street
“December is generally a month where families are planning their gatherings, people are coming into town, there are family dinners, company dinners, holiday parties. We start taking orders the first week in December, which is of course when the fires hit. The first 2 weeks of December, I basically manned the store by myself, there was no business. Ventura was like a ghost town, anybody who was here, wasn’t outside. And then you go into the loss, the devastating feeling of loss – there was no holiday spirit even into the first week of January. There is an overwhelming feeling of loss and displacement, it trickles down to a loss of economy. All the people who aren’t able to do their customary jobs – these are the customers. Our business had dropped about 50% in December and is continuing on that path. There are 50-75 regular customers that we haven’t seen and 30 Christmas orders that were canceled or not picked up.”

Writer’s note: Despite this, in addition to local donations, Sharon prepared a tri tip dinner to feed the Montecito Fire Crew.

Lynn Mikelatos
owner of The Greek and Margarita Villa 1583 Spinnaker Drive / 1567 Spinnaker Drive
“On Tuesday (December 5th) we closed because so many of our employees had to evacuate and everybody needed to just take care of their families. The first weekend we were hit the hardest, and in the first 10 days to 2 weeks we had a lot of cancellations, although, some parties rescheduled for January. It really impacted people going out in general; it was a big deal emotionally for the entire city. The Parade of Lights was scheduled for the second weekend after the fire (December 15 & 16) and there was some talk as to whether it should be canceled, but it’s such a part of the culture of Ventura and to the economy of the harbor! It’s all been pretty quiet down here, we just don’t see the foot traffic and overall, it put a shadow over the business. I think it goes to the heart of every Venturan, Firefighters would come in and customers would buy their food! I’m proud to be a Venturan and we’re not going to let this get us down!”

Writer’s note: The Parade of Lights did go on and Lynn reports it was a successful event!

Simone Covault
owner of Simones Coffee & Tea 7818 Telegraph Road
“We were evacuated so we came here and stayed a couple nights, the first night we didn’t sleep at all, then we slept on the floor. The power was out, and the Kimball center was filling up with people sleeping in their cars. When the power came on, people came in to use the restroom, seek reprieve and just to have a sense of community. We were bombarded! We never closed! There were no baked goods but as soon as the machines warmed up, I steamed coffee all day. On Tuesday, December 5th, I had people say I was the only coffee shop open and people began meeting here, we were super busy from the start. The first week, no merchandise sold, but after a couple weeks, people started purchasing some Christmas items. People were so grateful that we were open, one woman, a retired teacher came in with a child that she mentors to bring me a candle and say thank you for being a beacon of light during the fires!”

Writer’s note: Although Simone and her family remained evacuated and displaced for 2 ½ weeks, she never closed her doors. Their home did have some damage from the fires, but it wasn’t extensive.

John Reynolds
owner of JLR Studio 20 North Fir Street Suite A
“We were closed for 3 days and at the top of our street, we lost two houses. The following week, people were just not out and about, there was so much ash in the air. I had 2 ½ to 3 inches of ash in the corners of the building. We did lose appointments and we couldn’t reopen because there was no electricity. I think the New Year has been on the up rise, one of my stations was recently rented by a tanning artist and that should help generate more business.”

(John has been at this location for 32 years!)

Ashley Pope
owner of SpiceTopia 576 East Main Street
“We did okay in December, we got a lot of community support even though downtown took a hit. So many people came downtown determined to help local businesses, they wore masks and we’re so grateful for them. I worry about the longevity of the process, hopefully, we don’t see businesses close. If they’re still open a month out, that’s not an indication that they’re doing well; we won’t see the true impact on business until a little bit further. How’s it gonna look after year 1 or year 2? We stay strong going forward, I feel positive and have so much faith in Ventura to push through this! We want to continue to put the word out there that every dollar spent here locally, is a dollar put toward recovery! Where are the contractors and attorneys (etc.…) coming from? We need to be conscientious of that!”

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