GRANTS PASS, Ore. -- Not all survivors of the Camp Fire in Paradise (November 2018) are choosing to rebuild in Paradise or Butte County. NewsWatch 12's Cassidy Delamarter shows us how one man is starting over in Grants Pass.
November 8 marks one year since the Camp Fire destroyed the town of Paradise. Like most others who fell victim to the fire, Zach Thomas, the food truck owner of Pressed, is still working to get things back to normal. Thomas moved across the country from Virginia to Paradise in 2016. He was looking for change.
"It was very easy I want to say, to run a business there," Thomas said. "Everybody is on your side you know? Nobody is in competition."
Ever since he was 19-years-old, he wanted his own wood-fire pizza place. At 28-years-old, he finally did it when he opened his food truck, Sliced, in June 2016. A year and a half later, he was able to expand and open a dining room for Sliced. But three months later, he lost everything.
His home. His business and even his dog.
"Maybe a week and a half [after the fire], we found out, [our home] completely burned down," he told NewsWatch12. He said none of the residents were allowed to go back into town until more than a month after the fire. During that month, crews worked nonstop to investigate the fire and make sure it was safe before people came back.
"So we finally went back up and didn't find anything there actually. We looked for two hours and only found our dog unfortunately."
Thomas said he, his wife and their 3-year-old were fortunate because they had help from friends and family out of state, but recovering from such a big loss takes more than just time. A few months after the fire, he ended up moving to Grants Pass to start everything over again.
"To get completely back on our feet, it's not really there yet," he said. "Building a business and then knocking it back down and then trying to build it back up is pretty rough, but other than that, we have everything we need to be survive and be happy, we found that here. We're a select few to land back on our feet like we have and there's a lot of people still struggling."
Thomas said he still remembers the faces and orders of his customers in Paradise. To his surprise, he said he still gets to see a lot of those same customers here in Grants Pass because he didn't end up being the only Camp Fire victim to move to Southern Oregon.
"Probably 3 times a week I'll see somone and they come up to say hi, even if they aren't eating."
Thomas said everything has fallen into place as best it could considering the circumstances. He's even partnering with a neighboring business.
Tom Gillis, owner of Rogue Valley Brewing Supply, said, "It's still a work in progress, but the goal is to have some good food and beer with a family-friendly environment."
Thomas and Gillis plan to colaborate in a shared space. Gillis will provide the beer and Thomas will make the food.
"It's perfect for me and him I think," Gillis said.
You can find pressed on the corner of South 6th street and South L Street in Grants Pass Monday through Friday.
Monday: 11 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Tuesday: 11 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Wednesday: 11 a.m. - 6 p.m.
Thursday: 11 a.m. - 6 p.m.
Friday: 11 a.m. - 7.m.
Thomas said hours are subject to change in December when he opens a second food truck to make wood-fired pizzas, Catalyst Pizza Co. Hours may also change when the collaboration with Gillis is finalized.