Vons Opens to Montecito Customers After Mudslides

A busload of Casa Dorinda residents were taken to shop at Vons in Montecito.

Kelsey Brugger

A busload of Casa Dorinda residents were taken to shop at Vons in Montecito.

The one pharmacist manning Vons Pharmacy on Coast Village Road in Montecito was slammed on Thursday. With spotty electricity, the phones were not reliable to receive calls or faxes from doctors' offices. A constant stream of customers went through the small shop. Two woman in line who did not know each other spoke to each other as though they were lifelong friends. “Patience is a virtue,” one said to the other, laughing, “Seldom in a woman; rarely in a man.” Her husband, she explained, was in the parking lot, growing impatient. She picked up her ringing cell phone in the middle of the transaction: “Yes, we are alive and kicking,” she said into the receiver.

The other woman, upon being told her prescription had not been renewed by her doctor, pulled out her cell phone and got the doctor on the line. He spoke to the pharmacist who was not really sure what to do. “I guess I could talk to him,” he said, “Because my phone is not working.”

The sentiment at the Vons shopping center was concerned. A National Guard vehicle was parked in the lot while chaplains set up tables of snacks and water nearby. An MTD bus waited to pick up residents and take them out of the Montecito area. Most Vons shoppers were Montecito residents who had been stuck at home for days without power. Many expressed gratefulness that their homes survived the storms.

A group of Montecito residents was escorted to the market but sheriff's deputies told them they had to wait to go home for an undetermined amount of time. One man sitting on the steps complained the county workers did not do enough to clear debris after the Thomas Fire and that the local press failed to ask pointed questions. He declined to give his name.

Another woman, who gave only her first name, Alex, expressed concern about her daughter who goes to Cold Spring School because one of her classmates, Sawyer Corey, 12, was identified as among those killed. Her twin sister reportedly suffered serious injuries and is in the hospital. Their older sister, 25-year-old Morgan Corey, is still missing. The Sheriff's Office released Thursday the names of 17 fatal victims, which included four children.

Vons was awaiting a shipment of bottled water coming from around Highway 5. They planned to distribute for free. “We weren’t expecting to be open,” said Aaron Berends, the store director. The store has been busy with shoppers stocking up. No fish or meat was stocked in the glass-covered cases. Only two checkouts were opened. A lot of the staff lives in Summerland or Carpinteria, Berends explained, and were unable to make it in to work, he said. A few employees had experienced loss, he said.

A bus of Casa Dorinda residents was dropped off to shop at Vons. The facilities survived and residents mostly sheltered in place. The Montecito creek did flood the lower part of the property that is mostly open space. A representative at Casa Dorinda has not been available for comment.

Another astounding moment was recounted by Tommy Schneider, the pastor at Calvary Chapel, who said one of his parishioners had been missing but came riding in Wednesday on a big dirt bike. It turned out he had been stuck in his upper Montecito home without power for days. Everyone cheered upon his arrival.

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