Napa Valley Disaster Relief Grants Save Small Businesses from Economic Aftershocks of the 2014 Earthquake

In August 2014, a magnitude 6.0 earthquake rocked Napa Valley, causing $440 million in damage to the surrounding communities, including significant damage to local small businesses.

The Roost, a downtown Napa retail store, was particularly hard hit.  Owner Patricia Trimble described the devastating loss of inventory caused by the disaster. "As a retail store owner, we order our Christmas inventory in the summer to get better rates. A lot of it was damaged or destroyed, and we couldn't reorder because sitting on inventory just gobbles up your working capital." In addition to inventory losses, Patricia’s front window was destroyed and had to be boarded up. She ended up writing “We [Heart] Napa” on the boards and selling postcards and t-shirts with the slogan to pay for the repairs.  Patricia applied for an SBA Emergency Loan but was declined twice. 

The boarded-up window of The Roost in Downtown Napa after the August 2014  earthquake

The boarded-up window of The Roost in Downtown Napa after the August 2014  earthquake

Fortunately, the Napa Valley Vintners’ Association, along with the Napa Valley Community Foundation, Napa-Sonoma SBDC, and Working Solutions, stepped in to fill the void through the Napa Valley Community Disaster Relief Fund.  Working Solutions was selected to administer the program and distributed $543,000 in disaster relief grants to 28 small businesses, including The Roost.

Patricia, owner of the Roost, receives her grant check from Working Solutions Business Development Officer Laurie O'Hara

Patricia, owner of the Roost, receives her grant check from Working Solutions Business Development Officer Laurie O'Hara

The grant program was specifically targeted at small businesses that had suffered significant physical and economic losses and had already been declined for a bank loan or an SBA loan.  The grants, ranging in size from $3,000 to $25,000, helped small businesses stay open, repair damage, and retain employees, ultimately helping the entire Napa community recover more quickly from the earthquake.

Patricia used her grant for working capital to replace her destroyed inventory. She credits the intervention of the grant program and the Napa community for the survival of her business. One year on from the quake, Patricia sees a silver lining in all that happened: “If it wasn’t for the quake, I wouldn’t have known how to advocate for myself and my business.”  Patricia has since gone on to receive a microloan from Working Solutions to continue the recovery process, and is glad to report that her business is back on track.