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Local News

Coast Village Road Reopening Offers Relief for Flood-Ravaged Montecito

Businesses hit hard by weeks of closures prepare to welcome back their customers

Fresh-baked cookies are offered outside Jeannine’s American Bakery on Coast Village Road, as businesses prepare to welcome back customers after weeks of closures due to fire and floods. An evacuation warning for the area was lifted at noon on Tuesday Click to view larger
Fresh-baked cookies are offered outside Jeannine’s American Bakery on Coast Village Road, as businesses prepare to welcome back customers after weeks of closures due to fire and floods. An evacuation warning for the area was lifted at noon on Tuesday (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

A blue handmade sign reading “Jeannine's loves Montecito” hangs above a popular restaurant on Coast Village Road.

“Welcome home,” Jeannine's American Bakery chief operating officer Alison Hardey said Tuesday afternoon to a couple walking by the restaurant’s outdoor patio.

Beginning at noon, evacuation warnings in place for Coast Village Road near Highway 101 in Montecito were lifted, and a handful of merchants were able to reopen their doors.

The Thomas Fire in December forced the community's business corridor to evacuate, and shortly after the ash cleanup process began, they faced another hurdle after storms caused deadly mudslides and flooding in Montecito Jan. 9.

Thick mud, debris and boulders clogged the commercial zone, halting vehicle traffic and pedestrian access, while evacuations for Coast Village Road remained in effect nearly two weeks after the destructive storm.

Search efforts and crews working around the clock continue cleaning the town's impassable streets.

“One dump truck at a time, we will rebuild,” Hardey said. “We have been cleaning and more cleaning. The ash was endless. Then, we had some destruction to our staircase from the mud — and it just sat there.”

Challenges remain for the businesses that require water, as Montecito Water District customers are advised to use boiled tap water or bottled water for drinking and cooking purposes as a safety precaution.

“The water is important,” Hardey said. “We are a food place, and we have to have clean water.” 

During December’s holiday season and over the long Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend, ample numbers of visitors were expected to fill up restaurant tables, stay in hotels and shop retail stores along Coast Village Road.

“We had thousands of dollars in food spoilage,” Hardey said. “We were getting ready for the holiday weekend, and had to throw out food.”

Coast Village Road is all cleaned up and ready to welcome back customers. An evacuation warning for the area was lifted at noon on Tuesday. Click to view larger
Coast Village Road is all cleaned up and ready to welcome back customers. An evacuation warning for the area was lifted at noon on Tuesday. (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

On Tuesday, people walking by the business at 1253 Coast Village Road were greeted to the smell of fresh cookies.

The Montecito site has established itself as a well-known restaurant, having been in the area for 16 years and employing about 25 workers.

“Montecito is our beloved community, and we are going to fight to make it even better,” Hardey said. “We are going to stay positive and work together. We are recovering now, and we are rebuilding. There’s so much heart in this community.”

Hardey is looking forward to seeing familiar faces return and hopefully meeting a few new ones.

"We are all mourning," said Hardey, who lives in Carpinteria. "But, we are strong."

Hardey said the business is working on a special menu once its doors reopen.

“My 88-year-old mother is even working on a special menu, and we are going to call it the ‘recovery menu,’” she said.

Montecito’s lower village is three-quarters of a mile compromised of more than 80 businesses, including mom-and-pop stores, retail, restaurants, two hotels and national tenants.

Around 500 employees work in the area, said Coast Village Association board president Bob Ludwick. 

“We do about $70 million a year in taxable sales,” Ludwick said. “Our street is worth millions of dollars to the local economy, and it has been absolutely shut down. Now, it’s going to crawl back.” 

Ludwick said the Coast Village Association intends to help local businesses get back on their feet after being completely cut off from customers. 

Surrounding streets near Coast Village Road remained closed Tuesday, and many neighborhoods remain under the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office mandatory evacuation orders.

Holiday wreaths wrapped in lights still hang along light posts on Coast Village Road.

“To see civilian cars here is great,” Ludwick said. “Our recovery is not complete until the consumer public can return and live here.” 

The Coast Village Association is offering recovery assistance to Montecito businesses at 1235-A Coast Village Road.

“You’re not in this alone, and we are going to help,” Ludwick said. “It’s going to be a difficult recovery for some people until we have potable water, reliable internet and electricity. It’s going to be a challenge.” 

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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