Meet Patrick Braid
GOURMET FOOD AND WINE ENTREPRENEUR GIVES BACK TO OUR COMMUNITY
By Sarah Ettman-Sterner
Photos by Linda Blue
Family and community figure prominently in Patrick Braid’s life. He was born in Wellington, New Zealand, and raised in Santa Barbara. When his father, John Braid, a beloved resident and proprietor of the Montecito Village Cheese and Wine shop, fell ill several years ago, he set aside his career as a venture capitalist and strategist for private and public tech companies and returned to his hometown. Little did Patrick know that he would follow in John’s footsteps by taking over his gourmet sandwich business. Patrick says that while he hadn’t planned this next step in his career, “An outpouring of support for the shop from the community and the kids at Montecito Union School to keep the shop open changed my mind.”
For 46 years, Village Cheese and Wine was a popular hot spot for simple, delicious food served to workers onthe- go, as well as hungry kids looking for an after-school snack. Patrick recognized that the shop had a loyal following. He felt a sense of duty to continue the legacy he inherited. It was a place where his Dad made it a point to recognize customers young and old, call them by name, have friendly conversations and create a positive workplace for his long-term employees. The shop was a good, old-fashioned social gathering place that stood out as an icon, representing the spirit of the people that live and work in this beautiful seaside enclave. During the Thomas Fire and 1/9/18 Debris Flow, Village Cheese and Wine took on an even more important role. It became a lifeline for first responders that came to Montecito to protect homes and property.
In spite of the danger, Patrick kept the shop open so that fire and rescue personnel had access to food, cold drinks, clean restrooms and snacks. He points out that “During the day of the debris flow, the shop was at ground zero for these public servants. We hand-carved over 100 sandwiches for hungry, thankful crews.” The shop served 20 fire engines, National Reserve, Swift Water Rescue, local police agencies and residents. In the weeks following the disaster, the shop also became a makeshift grocery store, where isolated residents could obtain food and sundries, regardless of their ability to pay. The shop was a beacon of hope and light during a dark time.
As life slowly returned to normal, Patrick was grateful he could give back to the first responders who worked with selfless dedication to save Montecito. He was in awe of the resilient character of his friends and neighbors in the face of losing homes, businesses and loved ones. He began to think about what it would take for the community to heal and rebuild. And, he recalled a phrase he read somewhere that reminded him of his Dad – “Seek thee the treasures of your heart, and if you bow your head, may it be to a lofty mountain.”
For Patrick, the disasters created an “Aha” moment - a springboard for a new venture. Never one to shy away from a challenge, especially when it comes to helping others, Patrick formulated a new business plan that would complement and extend the reach of Village Cheese and Wine. Utilizing his entrepreneurial experience, which began at a very young age, he created a new umbrella company called Montecito Brands, Inc. featuring premium gourmet products, coffee and wine inspired by the first responders who bravely showed up for our community throughout the Thomas Fire and subsequent 1/9 event that tragically took 23 lives. The new company’s lantern logo - a beacon of hope - emanates from the Old Historic Montecito Firehouse. Established in 1917, this building sits right across the street from Patrick’s shop along East Valley Road. The flame represents the Thomas Fire and the heart symbolizes recovery. The logo pays homage to the resiliency of the Montecito community, the first responders and in remembrance of 23 lives lost. Patrick says, “Our mission is to offer premium gourmet consumable products, coffee and wine to help families and communities ravaged by natural disasters.”
The Montecito Wine Co. honors John Braid’s winemaking heritage. The wine is produced in collaboration with Doug Margerum, a Santa Barbara acclaimed winemaker and Montecito resident personally affected by 1/9 Debris Flow. It includes a white Rhone blend from Los Olivos and a Pinot Noir from famously known Santa Rita Hills. The Montecito Coffee Co. offers coffee produced from top-quality sustainable farms from around the world. Its single origin and blends are crafted in small batches by internationally renowned and award-winning roaster Gayla Moore. Brand development and packaging is spearheaded by Montecito Brands Creative Director Taylor Roberts, an American actress, author, and creative designer. She is known for her roles as Rachel Clark on AMC’s Turn: Washington’s Spies and Camilla Barnes on Law and Order: Criminal Intent. Labels feature artwork by Jeremy Harper, locally renowned Montecito plein air artist and highlight Miramar, Butterfly and Hammonds beaches - local, iconic landmarks just like the Firehouse. A third company, Montecito Olive Co., offers organic locally grown olives and olive oil, in collaboration with Craig Makela, former owner of Santa Barbara Olive Co. A fourth company in the works will be called Montecito Brewing Co. It will offer brews co-crafted by local brew masters and the first responders of the Thomas Fire & 1/9 Debris Flow.
Patrick says that “While these gourmet products are luxury brands that live up to the quality and prestige that Montecito is famous for, customers can feel good about paying a slight premium for things that truly make a difference.” That’s because Montecito Brands has adopted a business model similar to that of Patagonia’s 1% for the Planet; 1% of gross sales goes back to communities ravaged by natural disasters. Funds will be earmarked for the Montecito Village Recovery Fund, the company’s non-profit organization. Proceeds will also be disbursed to the Foodbank and other communities most recently affected by natural disasters. Additional coffees blends will be customized and sold to help others in places beyond Montecito that have been devastated by fire. One will be named “Paradise,” to honor that town destroyed by the Camp Fire; the other will be called “Malibu” as a tribute to that community disrupted by the Woolsey Fire.
The Montecito Brands business strategy is already seeing promising results. The Vons grocery store chain, which was instrumental in supplying Village Cheese and Wine with groceries during the disaster, will be launching these products in Montecito and surrounding Santa Barbara County locations. Pane E Vino and Via Vai restaurants, as well as the Montecito Grocery in the Upper Village, will also feature them to customers. Patrick says “It’s gratifying to have an opportunity to invigorate Dad’s brick and mortar business in a way that preserves and strengthen hometown social connections. At the same time, work is being accomplished to develop an online business and give Montecito Brands a national presence, while doing good by serving those in need. Montecito is the perfect place to achieve these goals.”