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If you’re like me, you’ve been so busy dealing with the present, you haven’t given much thought to the road ahead as we turn from evacuation to rebuilding and eventually to repopulation.

But, from what I hear about other places that have been devastated by fire, places like Lake County and the Oakland Hills, we can expect to be at this for many years to come. We will not just be rebuilding our lost homes and businesses. We will be rebuilding an entire community devastated by the loss of 5 percent of its residences and more than 400,000 square feet of commercial space.

When it comes time to move back into our homes and take stock of what has been lost and what is needed, I want the people of Santa Rosa to know that we, like many local businesses, will be here for you as we have always been. We will need to rebuild our economic community as much as we need to rebuild our physical community.

When you shop locally, you can partner, lead and take great pride in the ownership of the rebuilding effort.

As Lou Bertolini prepared me to take over the company he and his brother Larry ran for half a century, he made one truth very clear — the business is here for, and by the grace of the community. The day we forget why we are here is the day we go out of business. If you help the people, they will in turn help the business.

Lou put his money where his mouth was. As he supported Sonoma County, Sonoma County has in turn supported Western Farm Center for 50 years.

This fire, as tragic as it is, gives us all the chance to live up to the high ideals of men like Lou — to help your community.

We promise to be here for the families and farmers with pets and animals in their time of need. We will continue to donate to local charities. We will continue to give your dog that much needed biscuit at the counter. We will employ your friends and neighbors, and no member of our team will lose their job because of the fire.

There is an undoubted convenience available to the online shopper. But what could be more convenient than being here and open all week to make available supplies and food to those in need? Online shopping does allow you to save a buck here and there. On the other hand, we have opened our hearts to hand out thousands of dollars’ worth of food and product to displaced families and the rescues supporting them and their animals. Can you count on those online businesses to do that?

I say this not just as a local business owner. I am resident of Santa Rosa. I am a dad, a husband and a coach for a school basketball team. I am humbled to be at the helm of Western Farm Center at this time. So many of you come to us over the last 50 years. We will continue to be here for you. We will continue to be an agent for rebuilding.

In return, I have but one humble ask during our rebuilding efforts. When you are out shopping, try going to a locally owned business first. Think about where the money you spend will end up. Do you want it to go out into a digital void? Or do you want it to help rebuild your city and community? Every dollar you spend in Santa Rosa returns dividends to your community.

You can accelerate the rebuilding process by choosing to shop locally first. Keep your money here. Help employers and employees here. With your support of the local economic community, you will have a very real part in keeping us all Sonoma County strong.

Trevor Frampton is owner and general manager of Western Farm Center in Santa Rosa.

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