Climate change killed my business plan

Present
6 min readDec 10, 2023

I’ve loved being a shopkeeper for the past three years. Of the 20+ jobs I’ve had in my career, it’s definitely my favorite yet. Though as I grow into more of a maker, it’s quickly becoming my new passion + focus in the near-term. I’m ready to grow past my brick and mortar footprint and see what brightness will blossom. It’s bittersweet to officially share that 2023 will be my last year in our brick and mortar storefront in downtown Boulder Creek.

Author’s storefront in Boulder Creek California

There are lots of reasons for this decision: fears for personal safety + increasing retail theft, streamlining profit/loss, lifestyle choice, pursuing being a maker more, honing online and event sales skill sets + moving towards degrowth/cutting down on consumerism. I could write a blog about each of these topics and will share more learnings over time, but there’s a much deeper cause that’s worth digging into first.

At the root of this transition is the tough lesson that climate change killed my business plan. Due to the CZU Lightning Complex Fire in August ’20, my core demographic was decimated in a day with a decades-long return timeline. We moved to Boulder Creek in ’19, believing it to be a climate haven, but have experienced two “rare” climate disasters in the past five years.

Downtown Boulder Creek during the ’20 CZU fires

I’ll share our personal experience living through local wildfire and windstorms soon, but it’s just one story in millions of already affected climate survivors and the toll has only begun to climb. We’re hard-wired to believe it’ll never happen to us, but it’s clear to me now that with impending change, no one will be spared. After we returned from weeks of evacuation in Sept ’20, I was optimistic that our community would bounce right back. Little did I know that disaster recovery is a decades long process, and minimal progress is made in a few years. As they say: Rome wasn’t built in a day. It sure can be destroyed overnight though. Our little mountain town will never be the same. Many neighbors will never return and a growing wave has moved out recently. Dozens of favorite local establishments have closed their doors since the fires, soon to include my own.

Big Basin State Park will also never be the same. Within 24 hours, 97% of the park was devastated by the fire and all of the historic buildings were lost. As a makeshift park gift store over the past three years, I’ve discussed this park with hundreds of tourists and locals, and their stories are so touching. Big Basin was the first State Park ever established in California and has positively impacted such a massive diversity of lives; I’ve heard countless tales about getting outdoors with friends and family in this magical place, in retelling often a sparkle in their eyes. On the other hand, it’s also shocking how many natives still can’t bring themselves to ”go up there”. As anyone who has visited Big Basin pre- and post- fire knows, it’s a whole different world. The Big Basin of our past is gone forever and all that’s left are millions of memories of hiking, exploring the creeks and waterfalls, hearing a story in the campfire bowl, camping and backpacking or soaking in the shade of the giants. The forest will recover; these ancient giants live on the scale of millenia. But these scars will mark this struggle for the rest of their time, and the grief lives on in our hearts.

Fire scars on the Redwood Trail at Big Basin State Park in ‘22

Our community has a unique opportunity to re-build smarter and more inclusively, which is super neat, yet the loss is still palpable. Big Basin being closed for two years and now with amenities still very limited has really impacted local traffic. We used to see up to one million visitors traveling through downtown Boulder Creek each year en route to this historic California park, but traffic has slowed to a trickle the past few years. In a town of five thousand full-time residents, these swings are hard-felt. The full timeline for Big Basin re-build plans is over ten years out. Unfortunately growing interest in the park or area before it’s been properly rebuilt is not good for the local community either and only impedes rebuild efforts. Infrastructure is not yet reinforced to sustain large influxes, and the amenities that travelers have become accustomed to (like public restrooms) are years away. Thus as a tourist-centric business in the heart of a recovery zone, we’re in somewhat of a catch twenty-two so I’ve decided to adjust my approach.

While I originally set out to raise awareness about the 30x30 cause (to preserve 30% of global lands and oceans by 2030), unfortunately through surviving this climate catastrophe, I’ve come to understand that unfathomable destruction is already in store for even just these next seven years. Our world will be drastically different by 2030 so the current approach is going to fall short by a long shot. Thus my mission will remain to spread earth love, but the rally for 30x30 will instead evolve with the urgency of the times.

Author’s brick and mortar shop is the little green one

Furthermore I am transitioning my business model from brick and mortar to online + events + wholesale. All of our inventory has recently been made available online, and we will streamline our selection over time to fifteen core brands (majority local) along with expanded Present designs and Pre-Loved lines. We’re excited to broaden our customer-base while also leaning into the event-centric nature of the Santa Cruz Mountains. In addition to online collection launches, I will pop-up occasionally in downtown Boulder Creek and at other festivals and markets throughout the year. Some Present designs will also be available in local retail stores. We will share a stockist list and events calendar early next year.

Additionally I’ve started sharing my small business, adventure and fire preparedness learnings via Guides + will share more about why we believe in moving towards degrowth and how we can cut down on consumerism and make sustainable swaps in our everyday lives via the blog soon. If you have any thoughts about this transition or questions on any of the other additional roots of this change, please reach out anytime.

Author in the heart of the Santa Cruz Mountains

It’s been such a joy building this small business in downtown Boulder Creek and getting to know so many neighbors and greater San Lorenzo Valley and Santa Cruz County community members. Thank you all for your outpouring of support over the past three years! It’s amazing how much talent and passion there is in this mountain range, and I’m proud of how much we accomplished. We’re so blessed to live in this unique place with such a strong heart. Wherever you are, build an authentic community, find a way to give back and spend more time in nature. I’m looking forward to growing in new directions + sharing new goods, learnings and spaces with you all.

In the meantime, it’s closing time for our storefront era; luckily every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end..

Sunrise in the Santa Cruz Mountains

Cheers to new beginnings in 2024!

Originally posted on Present Blog 12.8.23

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Present

🌲 Small town outdoorist + entrepreneur 📍 Boulder Creek, California - unceded land of the Coastanoan + Amah Mutsun Tribal Bands ✨ she / her