This is a special advertising section. The material was prepared by the advertising department and did not involve the reporting or editing staff of The Press Democrat.
The deadly wildfires that swept through Northern California in October caused widespread destruction to local homes and businesses, consuming over 30,000 acres and destroying more than 6,000 structures here in Sonoma County.
More than $3 billion in covered losses have so far been reported, a figure that is expected to rise, with over 85 percent of the damage occurring in Sonoma County where an estimated 5,000 homes and 1,500 commercial structures were destroyed.
In addition to the significant loss of property, Sonoma County is set to absorb a $21 million shortfall at the end of the fiscal year due to an expected revenue decline of nearly $10.7 million from the cost of damage and the use of public dollars to fund the response.
Such costs have put significant strain on both the residents who have lost their homes and the businesses who depend on local patronage for their survival, highlighting both the challenge and imminent importance of the rebuilding effort facing our community.
For many Sonoma County businesses, the rebuild is a literal one as business owners who have lost property to the fire must now decide how to proceed as local cleanup and reconstruction efforts begin.
Willi’s Wine Bar, a critically acclaimed local’s favorite known for its unassuming refinement that so well embodied the essence of Sonoma County, is one such business, destroyed by flames in the early morning following the first night of the fire.
“Everyone was gone except one of the managers, who tried to hose it down and turn the gas off,” Owner Terri Stark confirmed. “But eventually he had to leave.”
Like so many business owners, Terri and husband, co-owner, Mark, are still unsure what the future holds in the wake of the devastation.
“There’s nothing else to do right now besides take it one day at a time,” Terri says. “We have people who have lost everything, and we’re trying to do what we can for them.”
Terri and Mark own five additional restaurants in Sonoma County that have remained open since the fires, coordinating free meals for first responders and employees and residents affected by the fires. Their company, Stark Reality Restaurants, employs over 400 people, with roughly 85 percent living in impacted areas.
“I don’t know what to expect each day,” Stark says. “But we’re going to try to help. Each day. That’s all you can do.”
For now, Willi’s Wine Bar remains closed as Terri and Mark work to rebuild. Their other restaurants, however, are open: Bird and the Bottle, Monti’s and Stark’s Steak & Seafood in Santa Rosa and Bravas Bar de Tapas and Willi’s Seafood and Raw Bar in Healdsburg.
Other local businesses, while still standing, have found large portions of their customer base impacted by the fires and face uncertainty as they anxiously wait to see if pre-fire profits and long-loyal customers will return.
Molsberry Market, a local grocer serving Santa Rosa since 1958 and owned by brothers Brian, Dean and Joe Molsberry, narrowly avoided being destroyed by the fire.
“The business is still standing,” says Brian. “But everything from our fence all the way to Santa Rosa is gone.”
Many of Molsberry Market’s customers lost their homes in the fire and now must decide if and when they will be able to return, leaving local business owners such as the Molsberry’s unsure about the future.