Every day since the January 9 natural disaster, Village Cheese & Wine Store, located in Montecito’s Upper Village, has been open for business. But not in the traditional sense. Owner Patrick Braid, 47, is “not accepting any money,” he said, from first responders, Sheriff’s Deputies, utility workers, cleanup crews, and residents still living in the evacuation zone. Since the storm struck, Braid’s small deli, which has operated from the same location for 43 years, has transformed into an “emergency makeshift grocery store,” he said, giving out sandwiches, coffee, pastries, and bags of food, drinks, and other necessities to anybody who walks through the door. He’s also been delivering phoned-in orders to sheltered families running short on supplies. Braid’s generosity got a shout-out from Santa Barbara County Supervisor Das Williams when he appeared on The Ellen Show last week.
For the first 36 hours or so, he kept the lights on and the refrigerators cold with a brand-new 5000-watt generator donated by Home Depot. Smart & Final, Trader Joe’s, Andersen’s Bakery, and Vons have also stepped up to help with inventory. Even as the shop’s bank account continues to drain — he had to close for 10 days during the Thomas Fire — he keeps the bigger picture in mind. “Understanding the scope of this disaster, I’m looking to establish a nonprofit [called] the Montecito Village Recovery Fund,” he said. “We’re going to use this tragedy to effect massive change in charitable giving.”