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Following the destruction of Willi’s Wine Bar in the Tubbs Fire, owners Mark and Terri Stark made it a priority to take care of their employees. The Starks then spent the following weeks coordinating free meals for first responders and those affected by the fires. Their company, Stark Reality Restaurants, employs over 400 people and operates four restaurants in Sonoma County; Willi's Wine Bar employees have been able to find work at other Stark restaurants (where some Willi's Wine Bar menu favorites have also found a new home). The Starks now look forward to rebuilding Willi's Wine Bar (estimated opening date not available at this time). (Photo of Mark and Terri Stark by Christopher Chung)
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The Astro Motel in Santa Rosa was originally slated to have a "soft opening" on October 27, 2017 but, as fires struck Sonoma County on October 8, the Astro team asked for special permission from the city to open early and filled the 34 rooms with evacuees, who stayed for free during the first few weeks. The Astro then applied for, and received, FEMA eligibility and began housing Sonoma County residents who had lost their homes in the fires. About a third of the motel’s rooms are now occupied by FEMA-eligible guests. The motel is hosting a grand opening on January 18. (Photo of Astro owner and Spinster Sisters chef Liza Hinman by Alvin Jornada)
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Sonoma Family Meal, founded by Sonoma Magazine BiteClub editor Heather Irwin, served more than 80,000 chef-prepared meals to those affected by the fires over a period of five weeks. The nonprofit now serves 25 local families, so that each family has one less thing to worry about while dealing with insurance companies and the aftermath of October's catastrophe. Sonoma Family Meal has received funding from the Redwood Credit Union North Bay Fire Relief Fund and operates in collaboration with Franchetti's Wood Fire Kitchen on Dutton Avenue in Santa Rosa. They are looking to expand their operation, to serve more families, in the months to come. (Photo by Beth Schlanker)
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Three months after Paradise Ridge’s Fountaingrove facility was destroyed in the Tubbs Fire, the winery continues to feel the love from the local community; even those who lost their home in the fires check in on the team to see if they need anything. The Paradise Ridge staff has worked hard to tackle the steps necessary to rebuild their main facility, in the meantime, winemaker Dan Barwick has found a temporary location for producing Paradise Ridge wines. “I think the Sonoma County community as a whole needs to encourage tourists to come back, buy Sonoma county wine and goods,” says co-owner Sonia Byck-Barwick. Paradise Ridge has another tasting room in Kenwood. (Love lines the hills by Paradise Ridge Winery, photo by Jeremy Portje)
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Blue Beagle, a small, locally-owned coffee roaster and cafe in Larkfield Center, enjoyed a steady flow of customers from the Wikiup area before the fires. Following the fires, business has been slow as many customers lost their homes, but owner Jane Chai appreciates the support from several regulars who now, residing in temporary housing, drive up to 20 miles to pick up a cup in support of their favorite coffee shop. (Photo by Shana Bull).
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The Tri Tip Trolley food truck, based in Sonoma Valley, has become a gathering place for Sonoma residents. The truck drove meals to the front lines of the fires to feed both first responders and neighbors, and was spotted at many fundraising events where they donated part of the proceeds in support of first responders and fire victims. Owners Andrew and Susie Pryfogle now look forward to opening their new Kenwood restaurant, TIPS Roadside, in spring of this year. They are creating an art installation at the restaurant to honor those affected by the fires, showcasing donated pieces from burned homes. (Photo by Heather Irwin)
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The Beauty Spot in Santa Rosa welcomed customers seeking shelter and those without power during the firestorm, providing free hair washes and a sense of normalcy during a time that was anything but normal. They hosted a free “pop-up boutique” with donated clothing and shoes for women, men, babies, kids and teens, as well as non-perishable foods, hot breakfast and coffee. The salon shared stories of selflessness, courage and love on social media, using the hashtag #SonomaCountyKindness. (Courtesy photo)
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While Moonlight Brewing's craft beer taproom on Coffey Lane was spared from the ferocious fire that engulfed Coffey Park, it remained closed for over three weeks. The small taproom has now returned to business and is open on weekends. Moonlight is also collaborating with Lagunitas on a Sonoma Pride beer, a special brew that is sold to raise funds for fire relief efforts. The brewery has enjoyed support from locals who continue to visit the taproom. Because of this steady flow of visitors, Moonlight now returns to their project of expanding the taproom. (Photo of Moonlight founder Brian Hunt by John Burgess)
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La Tortilla Factory, based in Santa Rosa, employs over 300 workers in Sonoma County. Following the fires, the company focused on keeping the lines of communication open in order to support employees - CEO Jeff Ahlers returned to work two days after the Tubbs Fire destroyed his Fountaingrove home. To ensure that employees earn a paycheck, the company also made it a priority to reopen as fast as possible. “Sonoma County already does a great job at supporting local business, food producers, and entrepreneurs. Continuing that momentum will definitely help local businesses repair, rebuild and thrive,” says Ahlers. (Photo of La Tortilla Factory founding family, from left, Jenny Tomayo, Sam Tomayo, Willie Tomayo, Jenny Tomayo by John Burgess)
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Gundlach Bundschu, on the southern outskirts of Sonoma, was on the fire line in October but, while the owners' home on the property burned, the tasting room, caves, winery and barns miraculously survived. Following the fires, the "Gun Bun" team created a "Fire and Wine" tour to share the story of how the fires affected the family-owned winery, as well as the 2017 harvest. In late October of last year, they hosted a re-opening party with all tasting fees donated to the Rotary Club's SonomaStrong fund. The event raised over $16,000 to fire relief efforts. (Photo of Gundlach Bundschu fire relief fundraiser by Beth Schlanker)
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El Pueblo Inn, located on West Napa Street in Sonoma, invited local evacuees to stay for free during the fires. The staff at the family-owned hotel found it rewarding to listen to and share stories with guests during this time of distress, and donated rollaway beds to local evacuation centers. They are now looking forward to getting back to business post holidays and a busy summer ahead. (Photo by El Pueblo Inn).
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My Gym, a children’s gym and fitness center on Airway Drive just east of Coffey Park, was forced to close for over a week following the fires. Once the evacuation order was lifted, the gym welcomed locals for free, indoor playtime. A few employees lost their homes in the fires and had to leave the area and so, for the past few months, the gym has hired and trained new teachers of activities for kids aged 3 months to 9 years. The gym has also hosted special events and parties for families who lost their home in the fires. (Courtesy photo)
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Mountain Mike’s, a pizza place on Cleveland Avenue in Santa Rosa, was destroyed by the Tubbs Fire. One of ten local franchises owned by the Chandi Hospitality Group (they also own Stout Brothers, Beer Baron, and Bibi’s Burger Bar in downtown Santa Rosa), Mountain Mike's employees have now been relocated to other restaurants in the group. Plans are in the works to rebuild the restaurant, but there is no timeline just yet. (Photo by Beth Schlanker)
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Wineries all over Sonoma and Napa donated part of the proceeds from their wines to various fire relief efforts. Red Car Wine donated half the revenue from every bottle of their 2016 Rosé of Pinot Noir from October to December of 2017, and managed to raise $54,300 for the Redwood Credit Union’s North Bay Fire Relief. Iron Horse Vineyards sold out of their Gratitude sparkling rose in two weeks, benefiting the Redwood Empire Food Bank.
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Evy’s Tree, an e-commerce clothing shop located on Industrial Drive in Santa Rosa, suffered smoke damage to over three months’ worth of clothing inventory. By working closely with their insurance carrier, they were able to get back to business quickly and organized promotions to benefit those affected by the fires. Their "Buy One, Give One" hoodie promotion was particularly popular (customers could purchase one hoodie sweater online and Evy's Tree would donate a hoodie to a wine country family who lost their home. The shop also sold out of their "Santa Rosa Strong" t-shirts, with proceeds benefiting those affected by the fires.
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Redwood Credit Union created the North Bay Fire Relief Fund during the first days of the fires. As of January 25, 2018, they have raised over $31,0000 to support the immediate needs of people and businesses in the four counties (Sonoma, Napa, Mendocino, and Lake) affected by the fires. With 100 percent of donations going to relief efforts, RCU has been able to help those who lost homes, or are experiencing economic hardship due to lost or interrupted employment; to first responders who fought the fires and protected our community, and K-12 and college students who had to replace school clothes and supplies. (Photo by Beth Schlanker)