Monday, October 23 , 2017, 8:26 am | Fair 56º

 
 
 
 

Business

Jill’s Place in Santa Barbara Reopens One Year After Devastating Fire

Owner Jill Shalhoob says she's grateful for loyal customers who appreciate the restaurant's new look after an extensive renovation

Vacation was a rare treat, relaxing time off that Jill Shalhoob earned working six days a week at her Santa Barbara restaurant, managing longtime employees and schmoozing customers who know her as the local butcher’s daughter.

Shalhoob finally found the time last May. She flew out on a Thursday and checked into what was supposed to be a one week’s stay at a beachside condo in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

Her revelry was rudely interrupted early the next morning at 3 a.m. by a frantic text message from a customer who lived near Jill’s Place, Shalhoob’s 27-year-old restaurant at 623 Santa Barbara St.

“The restaurant is on fire,” the neighbor had written in all capital letters.

A two-alarm blaze had ripped through Jill’s Place, gutting the kitchen and causing severe smoke damage to the rest — thankfully when the eatery was empty.

So ended the beach getaway.

Shalhoob was on the first flight back Friday morning, weighing whether she should completely remodel a restaurant with thousands of dollars in damages.

“Having everything stop so suddenly with no plan … that’s kind of disruptive,” Shalhoob told Noozhawk. “I’ve been working my whole life. How do you come back? I had such good feedback from customers. These people wanted this restaurant back.”

Finding her answer, Jill’s Place underwent an extensive renovation before reopening for lunch on May 10 — the anniversary of the devastating fire.

Dinner service followed last month, and loyal locals are once again funneling through the dining room and bar for old favorites and a couple of new menu items.

Jill’s Place is known for its fine cuts of meat, largely because the restaurant sells Shalhoob Meat Company fare. Shalhoob’s father, Jerry Shalhoob, founded that business at the current Jill’s Place location in 1973 before it expanded and moved to the larger space at 220 Grey Ave., where it operates today.

A fourth-generation Santa Barbaran, Shalhoob began working in her father’s butcher shop at a young age before graduating from Santa Barbara High School and then opening Shalhoob Deli & Catering in 1987 as a 23-year-old with zero restaurant experience.

Locals started calling it Jill’s Place, so the name stuck. Fifteen years later, Shalhoob expanded into a full-service restaurant and closed down for a month of renovations.

That was her longest hiatus from work until last year.

“A year is a long time,” Shalhoob said, sitting in the dining room of her restaurant on a recent evening just before the dinner rush. “It was an opportunity to do it the way I wanted. We created a local spot.”

A linen basket that spontaneously combusted in a utility room behind the kitchen caused the fire, Shalhoob said she later learned from investigators.

In addition to a fully upgraded and open kitchen, the Jill’s Place dining area got a facelift customers say makes the restaurant lighter and brighter — new and improved.

“I guess it just feels different,” she said.

A new light-up sign still broadcasts “Butcher’s Daughter” on the wall, and Shalhoob continues to receive a steady stream of hugs from locals who appreciate the reopening.

Shalhoob returns thanks, especially since construction took six months longer than she had originally hoped.

She doesn’t mind coming into work six days a week these days, but she’s thinking about hiring a night manager to take on some of the load.

Noticeably lost in thought — probably reminiscing about that oceanside view — Shalhoob said she’d like to vacation in Maui or back to Mexico sometime this fall.

“I’m due for one,” Shalhoob said, smiling. “Actually, I’m due for two.”

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff 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.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click here to get started >

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.



Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >