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Business

Montecito’s Upper Village Businesses Look to Rebound from Trial by Fire

After closure due to Thomas Fire evacutions, merchants look forward to January return to normal

Charred hillsides are visible Thursday behind Montecito’s Upper Village, which was coming back to life after more than a week in an evacuation zone. Click to view larger
Charred hillsides are visible Thursday behind Montecito’s Upper Village, which was coming back to life after more than a week in an evacuation zone.  (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

Firefighters 'Pass the Test' on Thomas Fire

After 12 days of evacuations, businesses in Montecito’s Upper Village finally opened their doors to the public on Thursday.

For Steve Hoyt, pharmacist and owner of San Ysidro Pharmacy, the day was about more than just business.

“A lot of people were lost in being able to get their prescriptions,” said Hoyt, who specializes in the art and science of preparing personalized medications for individual patients. “This was a very stressful situation to be in.”

Hoyt and his staff began calling patients on Wednesday in anticipation of the evacuation order getting lifted on Thursday. Many were left out in the cold when the pharmacy was forced to up and leave on a moment’s notice Dec. 9.

One of his patients tried to get a similar painkiller remedy through a Los Angeles pharmacy, but they weren’t able to duplicate the prescription.

“A lot of our business has been turned upside down,” said Hoyt, pointing out that independent pharmacies are already struggling. “We usually have a Christmas party. I had to cancel that. I was still able to squeeze out some bonuses to my staff.”

The pharmacy was just one of the dozens of businesses that abruptly closed their doors as the Thomas Fire raged through the hills above Montecito. The businesses didn’t know when they could return and watched helplessly as sales from what is typically the busiest time of the year vanished.

Amanda Fazio, sales manager and buyer for Julianne in Montecito’s Upper Village, said of the Thomas Fire: ‘You realize what’s important.’ Click to view larger
Amanda Fazio, sales manager and buyer for Julianne in Montecito’s Upper Village, said of the Thomas Fire: ‘You realize what’s important.’ (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

On Thursday, some of the merchants were trying to get their stores back in order, hoping for a Christmas miracle over the next few days. Other storefronts were closed, with owners planning to return on Friday.

The hills above the village were charred and barren from the fire that roared through just a week prior. And while the flames toasted the mountains, they also seared the sales of the businesses that typically thrive during the holiday Christmas season.

Many of them have just accepted that December is a loss and it’s time to focus on January and the new year.

“We’re glad to be back” said Sam Mella, manager at Jenni Kayne Collection, who spent the morning cleaning and getting the clothing store back in order. She said that at this point, “we’re waiting for January now. No one is coming back until after the new year.”

Next door, Juniper had not opened its doors yet. Hogue & Co. and William Laman were opened.

Steve Hoyt, pharmacist and owner of San Ysidro Pharmacy, speaks with a customer Thurday soon after a mandatory evacuation order for the area was lifted. Click to view larger
Steve Hoyt, pharmacist and owner of San Ysidro Pharmacy, speaks with a customer Thurday soon after a mandatory evacuation order for the area was lifted. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

Many of the stores were receiving loads of UPS packages that couldn’t be delivered over the past 12 days. All of them came this morning.

Amanda Fazio, sales manager and buyer for Julianne, was busy wrapping gift boxes for clients, presents that were supposed to go out weeks ago. She had no clue the fire was going to disrupt everything.

“We locked the door thinking we’d be back the next day,” she said. “I have been eager to get back in the regular routine of life.”

Fazio said her store wasn’t as affected financially because they are “very high-end” and they also sell clothing online and at their New York Store. “I was more concerned about everybody being safe.”

She lives in Carpinteria and was evacuated from her home. She could see the fire raging form her bedroom.

"It was the most terrifying two weeks of my life," she said. 

The fire reminded her of the priorities of life.

“It puts things into perspective,” she said. “You realize what’s important.”

It's a point that pharmacy owner Hoyt agreed with.

It is going to take several months to recover from the loss of just a few days, he aid, adding that "people have been so supportive."

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina 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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