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California Wildfires Impacting Promo Firms

Evacuations and lost business are two of the challenges some industry companies are facing.

In a Nutshell

*Nearly 20 wildfires were burning in California as of Wednesday, affecting the business operations and personal lives of promo professionals.

*The Mendocino Complex has grown into the largest wildfire in California history.

One mile.

That’s how close the roaring flames of the Carr Fire raging in Northern California came to Redding Printing Company, Inc.’s (asi/308544) facility in Redding, CA. While the physical business escaped unscathed, company President Ken Peterson and the firm’s employees have certainly felt the impact of the fire.

“We had three of our staff evacuated,” Peterson told Counselor. “One of them was able to go back to their house after four days with no damage. Another suffered only a lost shed and (destroyed) wooden fence. But one of our foremen suffered a complete loss of his home. They left with only some personal records, some photos, and their five cats.”

Peterson said some 35,000 people in his community have been displaced. The disruption in the Shasta County city has had a huge impact on sales for Redding Print Company in recent weeks. “Business ceased to exist after four days,” Peterson said. “With so many people not working due to the fire, ordering promotional items and commercial printing was the last thing on our clients’ minds.”

Redding Print Company was just one of the promo firms contending with fallout from the nearly 20 wildfires that were burning up huge swathes of acreage in California as of mid-day Wednesday.

As of Tuesday night, the Carr Fire that affected Redding had burned 172,055 acres and killed at least seven people. In the NoCal counties of Lake, Mendocino and Colusa, the Mendocino Complex, a blaze system consisting of two fires, grew into the largest wildfire in California history, having torched more than 300,000 acres as of Wednesday.

Meanwhile, firefighters battled the Holy Fire in Southern California’s Cleveland National Forest for a third straight day Wednesday, fighting the flames on steep and rugged terrain in the counties of Orange and Riverside. The Holy Fire had charred 4,129 acres as of Wednesday morning. Dry, hotter-than-usual weather and windy conditions have accelerated the fires, making the flames difficult to control despite the heroic efforts of firefighters.

ASI Data shows that there are approximately 280 ASI-listed distributors and more than 100 suppliers in Orange County. Riverside County has more than 80 distributors and about 25 suppliers. Up north in the more rural counties of Lake, Mendocino, Colusa and Shasta, there are about a dozen ASI-listed distributors. On the positive side, Counselor talked to a number of promo industry businesses in fire-hit counties that said they hadn’t been affected. For example, Craig Nadel, president of Los Angeles-based Top 40 distributor Jack Nadel International (asi/279600), hasn’t experienced any disruption. “It is really sad to see so much burn, but from an economic point of view there hasn’t been an impact for us,” Nadel told Counselor. Still, there were others like Redding Print Company that have felt the flames’ effects on their businesses and personal lives.

Jennifer Walker of start-up Madd Elf (asi/259326), which is based in Lakeport, Lake County, had to evacuate her home on July 28. While her residence was not damaged, Walker was displaced for about a week, and was unable to conduct business. “The whole city of Lakeport was evacuated,” Walker told Counselor. “The stores were closed. The courts were closed. Nothing to do with business was happening.”

In Kelseyville, another Lake County town, Clay Godbout went through what he said was his sixth fire-prompted evacuation in the last three years. When the evacuation order became mandatory, the owner of apparel decorating business KonocTees and his team flew into action, quickly packing up enough equipment to set up a satellite shop at a safe location. Fortunately, the evacuation order didn’t last as long as feared, meaning KonocTees didn’t have to establish the secondary shop. Godbout and co. were back in their digs on Main Street in Kelseyville and ready for business in about 2 ½ days.

Nonetheless, KonocTees’ sales are down because of the fires. Events for which KonocTees provides imprinted merchandise have been cancelled. Clients contending with fire issues may also be putting orders on hold. “We’ve probably taken a good 10% to 12% drop,” Godbout said.

To help rally and support the community, the team at KonocTees has created “Lake County Strong” T-shirts. Godbout said a portion of the proceeds from sales will be donated to North Coast Opportunities, a Ukiah, CA-based community action agency spearheading a wildfire relief fund.

Lake County, CA-based KonocTees created these T-shirts to help support their community, which was impacted by wildfires in Northern California.

More “Lake County Strong” T-shirts by KonocTees.

Looking ahead, Godbout is optimistic. “I believe business will start coming back,” he told Counselor. “School is starting. There will be fall festivals. Events can be rescheduled. I think we’ll be fine.”

Not everyone feels the same. Back in Redding, Peterson is anxious about what lies ahead for his business and his community. “After 15 days of the fire, business is slowly returning,” he said late Tuesday. “But the fire is only 50% contained. It may be 30 to 60 days before it’s out. We aren’t sure what the future holds for us.”