Returning to Ojai, December 10, 2017.
“Three weeks later Miss Selby phoned. ‘Miss Wood, I am glad to tell you that the disaster fund of the Red Cross is giving Steven Hoag [and you] nine hundred dollars to buy a new lot, five hundred dollars for you to start a new workshop, one hundred twenty-five dollars for a new kiln, plus a hundred dollars for materials.’… Thus, the Red Cross enabled me to pick up the broken pieces of my life”
-Beatrice “Beato” Wood, excerpt from I Shock Myself, describing the aftermath of losing her Los Angeles home to a flood.
Five days after the fire, Ojai looked like a post-apocalyptic movie set. The landscape was blackened with charred trees still smoldering. Smoke filled the valley like a thick fog. The streets were filled with firefighters and emergency vehicles. Part of me wondered if it was safe to return home. The other part wondered why I was there instead of Lisa. Through a series of jedi mind tricks, she had convinced me that it was my job to return to Ojai to clean the ash from our home and gallery. Somewhere along the line, I became in charge of anything that required spreadsheets, tools, vermin eradication, and/or toxic cleanup. Nurturing, extended conversations, and smiling were Lisa’s purview.
Lisa stayed with the dogs in Ventura, while I spent my mornings vacuuming soot and my afternoons attending meetings with disaster relief specialists*. At one meeting, a woman announced that there were government grants and loans available to those who qualified. The “Beg...Steal...Borrow” part of our plan to buy the building was about to come to fruition. Traditional banks didn’t seem very interested in answering questions like, “tell me how much income I need to write down to qualify?” What Lisa and I required was the lapse oversight of a government agency and the support of a strong female banker. We needed an institution that was more concerned with our future growth, not our past. There, sitting at a folding table in a local restaurant dressed in a drab grey suit with a government lanyard, I had met my perfect match.
Six months later, through an SBA Loan, we bought the Montgomery House and started the launch of Beato Chocolates in its kitchen.
Co-Founder of Beato Chocolates