Recovery continues in Sebastopol following flooding

Scattered showers Monday couldn't dampen the enthusiasm, as another flooded business re-opened at the Barlow District in Sebastopol. 

By closing time, the Barrio Fresca Cantina had served about 100 customers. It wasn't bad for a first day in a shopping area still riddled with locked doors.  

"Eventually this place is going to be super busy," said cantina owner Carlos Rosas, "and I'm really happy to have the employees back, because they are ready to run the business again."

The tiny walk-up is the first restaurant in the Barlow to open its doors since the February floods, although some others, such as Crooked Goat Brewing, also serve food. 

Many of the businesses are small and hyper-local, offering a farm-to-table, or meet-the-maker appeal.

Dozens of merchants flooded when the nearby Laguna de Santa Rosa overflowed its banks, and flood-gates designed for the property were not utilized in time.   

Barrio Fresca Cantina began five years ago, as a food truck that expanded into catering, and then a storefront at the Barlow. 

"Finally I had my dream," said Rosas, "and it was gone in three hours."

During the heavy storm of February 26, floodwater rose almost six feet up the walls of the cantina. 

Stripped to the studs, the sheet rock, tile, cooking surfaces, and appliances all had to be replaced. 

"It was very depressing to walk around, all the water, dirt, everything was horrible," said Cantina Manager Nataly Sanchez, " but now it actually brings joy, it's like we're back, we're going to be stronger." 

Around the corner, a small butchery is also celebrating its rebound. 

"It was tough, it's still tough, it's going to be tough for six months to a year, I don't know how long it will take to fully recover," said Adam Parks, owner of the Victorian Farmstead Meat Company.

In February, Parks was hands-on during the disaster, arranging for sandbags and wading into the flooded Community Market, where he has his butcher shop. 

For more than five weeks, he had to find ways to stay afloat financially, with four employees.   

"My two butchers became packers and everybody did a bit of everything," said Parks, describing how his team sold at farmers markets, cut meat in church kitchens, and stored it with other butchers.

In the end, competitor Pacific Market was among the first to welcome Farmstead back, with a big message emblazoned on their store sign.

"It's a small town and I've been here since I was four years old, so I'm used to it," said Parks, " but you still don't realize the impact it has until you go through it."

Employees are grateful that Parks stood by them. 

"Some people wold say, I've got to cut your hours, let you go, get on unemployment," said apprentice butcher Cliff Loffler, " but that didn't happen here, you pull together, make things happen." 

The Barlow complex is still a mix: some businesses in disarray, some undergoing construction, and others re-opened, with banners flying. 

"Things happen for a reason, and this is one of those things, people now know what Barlow is," said Barrio's Rosas, noting the disaster has made the development more high-profile. 

The outdoor patio where upended chairs and tables were once covered with mud, are now neatly arranged and awaiting customers. 

"I love this. I love the passion of our food, and the customer service," said Rosas happily, admitting the experience has taught him a lesson about enjoying life. 

"I used to worry about the future, but I don't worry anymore," said Rosas, "and I just want to cook, be happy, take care of the customers, the family, the employees, and that's it."

Butcher Adam Parks sees another silver lining: a stronger retail community emerging.

"We tenants didn't know each other before but we do now," said Parks, " just like when disaster hits a neighborhood, everybody gets to know their neighbors."