Thursday, February 20, 2020     Volume: 20, Issue: 51
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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on March 6th, 2019, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 20, Issue 1 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 20, Issue 1

Owner of Sergio's Furniture and Mattress discusses new location and plans for future after devastating fire

By KASEY BUBNASH

Two workers ripped open a large cardboard box that they'd just rolled in slowly on a dolly. As the men unloaded the tissue paper and Styrofoam packaging surrounding the cream-colored, rustic dresser inside, others were busy organizing high thread-count bed sheets and pillows near the mattresses on display. 


IN THE INTERIM
Until construction on the destroyed South Broadway location of Sergio’s Furniture and Mattress is finished, a temporary location (above) will be up and running on the second floor of the Town Center Mall.
PHOTO BY KASEY BUBNASH

It was Feb. 27, and although the new location of Sergio's Furniture and Mattress in the Town Center Mall had been unfolding for days, there was still work to be done before its opening day, which was March 1.

After rattling off some instructions to a few of his employees, owner Sergio Diaz made a beeline for a brand new full-length couch, one of the many on display in the store, where he settled into a spot in the center and discussed his plans for the future of his new store. 

He didn't care to make the opening a big, grand celebration like most businesses have when they open long-awaited locations, he said. After all he's been through the past few weeks, he just wants to get customers back in his store, buying furniture. 

"This location is going to be a plus," he said. "I don't think this is going to be a bad year. We should be able to get back on our feet."

Sergio's Furniture and Mattress has been closed since Jan. 3, when a fire that started just outside the original location on South Broadway grew into a blaze that destroyed its entirety and most of Shaw's Steakhouse, a neighboring restaurant. The fire's cause is still under investigation.

Diaz lost everything: the building, his furniture, and all the important financial and business-related documents he had, which he kept on paper in the store. The fire caused roughly $400,000 in damages, and he said he wasn't really prepared for the freak incident from an insurance or emotional standpoint.

"It was a major loss," Diaz said. 

But he was able to keep all his employees on the payroll, and the store has seen a massive outpouring of support from the local community. Diaz said he's practically been bombarded by Facebook messages, emails, and phone calls from customers across the Central Coast wanting to place orders and help the store get back up and running.

Sergio's Furniture and Mattress has been a presence in the community since Diaz opened his first Santa Barbara County location in 1992. He took an extended break from the Santa Maria Valley starting in 2008, when he and his family moved to Las Vegas. After several years there, they moved back to Santa Maria to raise their children, and then they opened the store on South Broadway in January 2017. 


REBUILDING
The South Broadway location of Sergio’s Furniture and Mattress was destroyed in a fire on Jan. 3, and owner Sergio Diaz said the rebuilding process has already begun.
PHOTO BY KASEY BUBNASH

There aren't many high-end furniture stores in Santa Maria, Diaz said, and he plans to continue offering it as long as he can. 

With the help of his savings and some major discounts from furniture vendors, Diaz said he was able to sign a lease on the Town Center Mall in a matter of weeks. The new store is only temporary, and he said it will be up and running for however long it takes to rebuild the South Broadway store, a process that has already started. 

People seem to be excited about the Town Center Mall location, he said, and if things go well, it could become a permanent second location. 

"It should fire up pretty well," Diaz said, before pausing and rolling his eyes. "'Fire up.' Bad pun." 

Shaw's Steakhouse, a popular Santa Maria restaurant, was also severely damaged in the fire that destroyed Sergio's Furniture. Shaw's is owned by Guggia Enterprises, a company that owns several local eateries including the neighboring restaurant, The Pantry. Traci Guggia could not be reached for a comment on the fire or the future of Shaw's. 

     Glenn Morris, president and CEO of the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce, said that while he wasn't sure what would become of Shaw's, the closure hasn't been helpful to tourism and business activity in town. He said he hopes people are able to branch out and discover other local restaurant options. 

It can be difficult for a business to bounce back after an unexpected disaster like a fire. Morris said that although the chamber doesn't have any specific programs in place to assist businesses in situations like these, it can work with them to identify contractors and remediation assistance, help them get the necessary permits and clearance from the city, and connect them to other partners or services as needed. 

The chamber can help businesses get back up and open as soon as possible, Morris said, and that's what he hopes both Sergio's and Shaw's are able to do.  

Staff Writer Kasey Bubnash can be reached at kbubnash@santamariasun.com.








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