Faces in the Crowd By Nancy Ransohoff
Photographs by Gary Moss
THIS SANDWICH SHOP OWNER AND ENTREPRENEUR CELEBRATES THE SPIRIT OF COMMUNITY WITH A LINE OF GOURMET FOOD PRODUCTS THAT GIVES BACK.
On the morning of January 9, 2018, Patrick Braid, owner of Montecito’s Village Cheese & Wine (villagecheeseandwine.com) shop, trudged with his brother through the mud covering Coast Village Road. Just hours after the catastrophic debris flow devastated parts of the town, they wanted to check on the shop “to see if it was still standing,” says Braid, “and if it was, to open it up for first responders.”
The gourmet sandwich store that has been a mainstay of the community for 46 years was indeed standing, and that day Braid, along with friends, family, and volunteers, hand-carved meat to make more than 100 sandwiches for hungry, grateful crews. They kept it up in the days and weeks that followed, during which the shop also became a makeshift grocery store and a community hub for isolated residents.
“In good conscience, I wouldn’t accept any money,” says Braid, who also provided food and refuge to first responders during the Thomas fire that preceded the debris flow.
Braid’s family has a history of helping out. His father, who ran Village Cheese & Wine for more than four decades until his passing in 2016, gave out free lunches to those who lost their homes in the 2008 Tea fire.
“A lot of the lives lost in the debris flow were our longtime customers and friends,” notes Braid. In the aftermath of the tragedy, the resilience of the community inspired Braid to give back and at the same time honor his father’s legacy. He used the entrepreneurial and business skills he had developed during his global career launching tech and finance companies to create Montecito Brands (montecito-brands.com), the umbrella company for a line of specialty food products that earmarks a portion of its proceeds for the Montecito Village Recovery Fund, the company’s nonprofit organization.
Montecito Brands donates 1 percent of the gross sales of its wine, coffee, and olive products to organizations helping communities impacted by natural disasters.
“We modeled it after Patagonia’s 1% for the Planet,” says Braid. Montecito Brands donates 1 percent of its gross sales to organizations in the area such as the Santa Patrick Braid Barbara Bucket Brigade and Foodbank of Santa Barbara County, as well as in other communities impacted by natural disasters.
The company’s local products include wine, coffee, and olives. Its Montecito Wine Company collaborated with acclaimed Santa Barbara winemaker Doug Margerum to produce Butterfly Beach White Rhône Blend and Old Firehouse Pinot Noir (named for the historic Montecito firehouse across the street from Village Cheese & Wine). Its Montecito Olive Company offers organic, locally grown olives and olive oil from Craig Makela, former owner of Santa Barbara Olive Co. For its Montecito Coffee Company Ventura-based roaster Gayla Moore crafts small-batch beans. Varieties include Hammonds Reef single-origin estate from El Salvador and Miramar Beach bold French roast. Labels and packaging feature artwork by local plein-air artist Jeremy Harper.
The brand’s philanthropic reach has expanded beyond Montecito. “We just launched Paradise Roast for victims of the Camp fire in northern California.” says Braid. “Malibu Roast for the Woolsey fire is coming soon, and our e-commerce site gives us a national presence.” Products are available at Village Cheese & Wine and the company’s website. “I’m grateful for all the support we’ve received for a brand with meaning,” says Braid.
Check out the article in the November issue of 805 Living Magazine.