Read more about the North Bay business recovery after the wildfires: nbbj.news/2017fires

A two-story building at Cleveland Avenue and Piner Road in Santa Rosa showed major progress since fire raged through the area in October. Though the concrete-block building was not destroyed, fire got in apparently through a second-story window on the south side.

Smoke and water ruined thousands of wedding dresses and tuxedos owned by Wine Country Bride. The company is owned by David and Cirkl Janowski, who saw the store as a complete loss. By late October they sought to serve existing customers by ordering new dresses and other items to keep planned weddings on track.

A showroom for Premier Bath & Kitchen on the east side, which faced oncoming flames, did not burn, but smoke damage to the inventory was extensive. The business relocated temporarily to 3033 Dutton Ave. The showroom could open as early as March.

An office on the west side, first floor, occupied by one of the building’s owners, survived nearly intact.

On Jan. 26, crews from Codding Construction worked to refurbish the structure. They just finished closing in the roof that week after December’s rains caused further damage to the building’s interior. “We’re not sure yet” when the restoration of Wine Country Bride will be done, said Bob Goates, who supervised the Codding Construction workers. “We’re going to have to bring it up to current code.”

“There’s no way anything could have survived that,” Goates said of smoke damage to Wine Country Bride. “Everything is black” on the second floor, though the inventory has been cleared out.

Codding Construction hired subcontractors to replace windows on the second floor. The work was in progress on Jan. 26.

“The first thing was getting the roof back on the building and getting it dry,” Goates said. “Fire was the initial damage,” but then, ironically, rainwater caused further rounds of ruin. “On a rainy day, there were three inches of water on the bottom of the building,” he said.

“We’re finally watertight,” Goates said of the roof completion in late January. “Now let’s see what we have to do to put it back together,” he said of the rest of the structure.

An elevator shaft near the center of the structure was about 10 feet taller than the rest, Goates said. “This whole center section burned out,” he said, including parts of the roof. “On the other end of the building, later that afternoon (Oct. 9), the trailer park caught on fire (Codding Mobile Estates). It started the dumpsters on fire. That fire climbed the wall then burned the roof off the building in the back (west side). Mechanical units were falling in.”

About half the building was destroyed by the two fiery invasions, Goates said. “There were areas that were totally unaffected,” he said.


The Kmart store north of Industrial Ave. on Cleveland burned to the ground. By late January, workers with a small crane had begun to organize the ruined building and contents, sorting scrap iron and masonry pieces into piles.

The store was surrounded by chain-link fence. Inside the fence was a ring of straw bales intended to absorb runoff from the rubble. There is no indication that the store will rebuild and reopen.

Sears Holdings, which owns Kmart, announced closure of 64 Kmart stores and 39 Sears stores between March and April 2018. In the North Bay, the Sears at Northgate Mall in San Rafael will close in April. No North Bay Kmart stores were listed for closure.

Read more about the North Bay business recovery after the wildfires: nbbj.news/2017fires

“Sears Holdings continues its strategic assessment of the productivity of our Kmart and Sears store base and will continue to right-size our store footprint in number and size,” the company said in a statement. “We will continue to close some unprofitable stores.”


The Kohl’s store located north of Kmart did not burn, but smoke wrecked most of the inventory. The store remains closed until a planned reopening on March 18. A sign on the front door indicates that the company is hiring for the reopening.

Inside, crews worked to rearrange clothing racks and mannequins. There was no clothing inventory. A computer terminal was illuminated at one cash register, but no staff were present.

Mountain Mike’s Pizza

The Mountain Mike’s Pizza restaurant that faced Cleveland Avenue north of Kmart was burned to the ground. Rubble stayed on the site for months until it was removed recently. The lot was fenced, and an American flag hung at half-mast.

El Pollo Loco

Just north of the Mountain Mike’s Pizza site, framing for a new El Pollo Loco restaurant stood bare and unburned as flames roared through the business district. Since October, the buildings have been closed in and work has been done to grade the lot for landscaping and parking.

A sign on the fence said, “Hiring Center.” In late January, all the applications had been emptied from a pouch, and a white box on the sign held completed applications. The business opening date was not posted.

Cleveland Square

South of Industrial Avenue on Cleveland, the Cleveland Square business park survived the fire, including A&I Market, State Farm offices, Wash Plus, Lily Spa, Star Zone Fitness, Bre Salon and Recherche du Plaisir (Pursuit of Pleasure) Chocolates, which sells handmade gourmet chocolate.

Puerto Vallarta

Adjacent to Cleveland Square to the south was Puerto Vallarta Mexican restaurant, which burned completely in the fire. The restaurant remains in ruins, with no discernible cleanup underway as of late January. The restaurant burned despite having stucco on its exterior walls.

Someone had placed a blue-and-white porcelain canister next to charred remains inside the restaurant. The canister, clean and bright, indicated a faint resurrection of business spirit.

Puerto Vallarta had signs from the City of Santa Rosa, posted in English and Spanish, warning against improper cleanup of the burn site. “Ash and debris contain hazardous materials, which may include asbestos, heavy metals, byproducts of plastic combustion and various other chemicals,” the sign said. “It is illegal to dispose of ash and debris along roadsides or on public or private lands.”

No ash or debris can be removed before the California Dept. of Toxic Substance Control inspects the site, the sign warned.

Trader Joe’s

The Trader Joe’s store, located just south of the demolished Puerto Vallarta, survived the fire. The store’s street sign largely melted, though the Trader Joe’s red sign on the building was intact, visible through the destroyed front sign.

The parking lot was mostly empty and a chain-link fence surrounded the store itself. A sign from Jupiter Construction & Maintenance, based in Concord, hung on the fence. Jupiter Construction was founded in 2015. Another sign proclaimed, “The phoenix will rise.”

Inside the fence, another sign to customers said, “We are working hard to get our doors back open as soon as possible,” and directed visitors to the Trader Joe’s store at 2100 Santa Rosa Ave.

Inside the structure, the store was empty of merchandise and shelves, stripped bare to the concrete floor. In front of the store sat a large watermelon box jammed full of dozens of fluorescent light bulbs, ready for recycling.

There was no information on the Trader Joe’s website about a planned reopening for the smoked-out store. The company’s notice dated Oct. 26, 2017, remained on the website. “Our Santa Rosa store on Cleveland Ave. is currently closed due to damage sustained during the recent wildfires,” the notice said. “We are working hard to get our doors back open as soon as possible, but it may take a while.”

James Dunn covers technology, biotech, law, the food industry, and banking and finance. Reach him at: james.dunn@busjrnl.com or 707-521-4257