Recovering from Santa Rosa CA Fire

$9,420 of $9,500 goal

Raised by 96 people in 14 months
We evacuated our home in Santa Rosa when we could see the flames of the advancing fire above the 80' high trees a 1/4 mile away.  We were lucky; the fire stopped short of our house.  Our family and our home were spared.  Our business, Sonoma Chocolatiers, has been collatoral damage.  Since the fire, business has plunged.  We have been voted the best chocolatier in Sonoma County for the last 9 years.  And since the fire, people have nearly stopped buying chocolates.  Just as the hot weather hiatus in chocolate sales is ending, the fire has eliminated much of our retail income.

At the same time, all the events in the county at which we would be selling chocolates were canceled for Octover due to the fires.   Naturally, a random power surge the previous week fried the airconditioner in our chocolate kitchen.  So we are unable to make chocolates to deliver to our wholesale customers.

My wife has early-onset Alzheimer's disease, triggered by cancer treatments 7 years ago.  The cancer is gone, but the Alzheimer's is advanced to the Moderately Severe stage.  Now she intermittently forgets who I am; our 13-year old son is scared she will start to forget him, which will likely happen in the next 1-2 years.  She was a highly skilled psychotherapist, and has not been able to work for the last 5 years.  So our only income is our chocolate and tea house.

(Meanwhile, although we are current on all payments on our house mortgage, insurance, and taxes, the agency that holds our mortgage is trying to illegally foreclose on our house.  I know, that doesn't make sense.  You're right.  It's why our lawyer is fighting them, (to be paid from any settlement) but we are in legal limbo until we can get the agency to abide by the terms of our mortgage. We got a restraining order at the end of Oct. to prevent the foreclosure until the hearing on our suit against the collection agency that holds our mortgage.)

We need cash immediately to fix the chocolate kitchen airconditioner so we can get our wholesale chocolate business back up and start delivering for the comng Holidays.  That requires about $1000 (we raised this within 12 hours of starting our campaign, which has allowed us to continue making chocolates.)

By the end of the month, we need to pay utilities, living expenses, health permits due this month, quarterly sales taxes & mortgage payment.  Expenses our business would cover but can't because all our event income for the rest of the month has been eliminated by the fires.  That's $3500.

And we need cash to buy chocolate and other ingredients, that would normally be paid from daily sales--another $2000.

And we need to pay rent, which we'd normally raise through daily sales--another $2000.

Everyone in Sonoma County knows someone who has lost a home or is displaced because of the fires.  It's the topic that strangers and friends alike are talking about, and little else.  It will take years for Santa Rosa and the county to recover from this disaster.  The impact on local businesses is less obvious but has already begun, and could be just as devastating.  

We started our business Sept. 1, 2008.  On Sept. 15, 2008, the world's financial system collapsed.  We survived that catastrophy and grew our business during the worst recession in memory into the Best Chocolatier in Sonoma County.  Now our family is facing the double impact of the Mom and wife being consumed by Alzheimer's  and the fires devastating our income.  

The generosity of the first people to participate in our campaign fixed our air conditioner.  We got through October OK, but retail sales continue to be far below historical levels, and below what we need to survive. Holiday sales should pick up in a few weeks and then we'll be OK again.  But we need to make it to the annual Chocolate Season.  Please help.  We still need at least $1000 to carry us to the time of year when we make our annual income.

Or simply come to our shop in Sebastopol and buy our chocolates and tea.  

You can also find us  at www.sonomachocolatiers.com.  We recommend telling us when you want the chocolates to arrive so we can send them to arrive as fresh as possible.

Thank you.

David and Susan
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Great news! In early June, the owners moved back into the first home to be rebuilt after the fires of last October. The county is slowly recovering. I drove through the major burn area a couple weeks ago and I was astonished to see how many of the burned oaks have sprouts new limbs and are clearly still healthy and alive. The landscape is doing it's utmost to rebuild, too.

But it'll probably take about 10 years for the local economy to fully recover--almost 10% of Santa Rosa's houses did burn down, and the wealthiest 10% at that. We drove through the burned residential area in late May and were astonished to see how many of the lots had for sale signs on them. Our shop is slowly recovering, and we, too, still have a ways to go to get back to pre-fires income.

Thank you to everyone who has supported us through this hard time. Please come join us for some tea and chocolate or muffins at our shop in Sebastopol. Tell your friends and family that we're still here (and with your help and their's, we plan to continue in business here.)

Thank you again.

David and Susan
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We were thrilled when the landlord said we could stay in our shop. But because it took him 4 months to go from "leave" to "stay", we lost about 1/3 of our clients. So now our income is down more than 30% compared to last year. We're hanging on, but by a thread.

Please tell your friends and family that we remain open, in the same location next to Whole Foods. Please visit us online at sonomachocolatiers.com--Father's Day is coming up, and we'll have our full line of Rum chocolates available, and our popular Tequila chocolates.

Thank you so much for your support so far. We're not fully recovered from the impact of the fires, and we could use a bit more help to make up the lost cash flow. We can't quite cover Long Term Care insurance for Susan (her Alzheimer's has advanced significantly in the last 6 months and she will need constant care within the year, so it's vital that we keep paying that insurance policy.) We need to reorder boxes for the shop to continue wholesaling our chocolates ($1500). The car needs repairs and some equipment in the shop broke in the last 6 months, and we're limping along unable to accumulate the funds needed to repair them.

Any help you can offer will be an immense relief. We do see an end to our need, but we just need a bit more help to get there.

Thanks, everyone.

David Gambill and Susan McCarn
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Fabulous news--our landlord has decided that we can remain in our shop!

He called today and said he'd received over 200 calls from our patrons asking him to let us stay. It seems to have made a difference.

So we will continue to make our chocolates, pastries, & muffins, and offer our teas and chocolate drinks in our same shop where we've been for the last 9 1/2 years.

Thank you all for your support. You made a HUGE difference in our lives.

David and Susan
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The Valentines chocolate season is upon us. Here's our annual pitch to encourage you to get your Valentine's Day chocolates from Sonoma Chocolatiers.

Your Valentine deserves the best.

Sonoma Chocolatiers has been voted Best Chocolatier in California’s Premier Wine Country since 2009.

You can order online (see our Valentines Special at
Order by Feb 10 for Valentine's Day delivery.

Or come into our shop in Sebastopol.

On Feb 13 & 14 we will have a pop-up floral shop in our chocolate shop, by beijaflorbotanicals. Get your fresh flowers and chocolates in one stop.

Hope to see you soon.

David Gambill
Sonoma Chocolatiers
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$9,420 of $9,500 goal

Raised by 96 people in 14 months
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Elizabeth Daley
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