Staying strong

Photo by Meredith J. Cooper

Monica Nolan is intimately involved in the Ridge community. A resident for 17 years—she lives in Magalia—she worked for some time at the Paradise Unified School District before taking over the post of executive director of the Paradise Ridge Chamber of Commerce nine years ago. When she started, barely in the wake of the Great Recession, the chamber suspended operations, since the transient occupancy tax had been rerouted to the city. She and a small staff have buoyed the organization, which went from being open two days a week to four during her tenure. Increases in memberships, sponsorships, products and events helped that effort, she said. Nolan’s house survived the fire, she said, so she will be returning to help the rest of the community rebuild. For now, contact the Paradise chamber inside the Chico chamber’s offices at 180 E. Fourth St., Ste. 120, or call 891-5556.

How has the business landscape changed on the Ridge in the past nine years?

We’ve lost a lot of mom-and-pop storefronts. I’d attribute it to the crash of ’08 and the changing economy of online shopping. We’ve had some franchises come in and franchises—a lot of them don’t join chambers. But they do their community giving in another way.

What’s happening now for the Paradise Ridge chamber?

The Chico Chamber just took us under their wing, as is what chambers do for each other. I’m in contact with Redding’s chamber, Santa Rosa’s chamber—and even farther away, with the Galveston [Texas] Chamber of Commerce, and Joplin [Mo]. There is a blueprint. Probably having a sister chamber foster you for a time is part of that blueprint. With the economy of Butte County being so interconnected, we need to keep our businesses on the Ridge in business. A lot of Chico business is dependent on Paradise business.

What are your members asking right now?

They’re saying, “I want to see my business, when can I get back?” The second thing to your home is your livelihood. They’re desperate to get back and desperate to pay their employees and keep all that afloat. That is the main thing I’m hearing. But these are such early days—we’re still in the mourning phase.

How is the community feeling?

Well, I still don’t have the full inventory of destroyed structures. But one thing that’s noteworthy is that our entertainment infrastructure is there. The cinema, the Performing Arts Center, and the longest-running community theater in the North State [Theatre on the Ridge].

Has the lack of a sewer line been an issue?

It was a huge deal because [more] restaurants couldn’t open. It really inhibited the number of employees per shop—because you didn’t have toilet capacity. The fact that it was so expensive for business owners to pay to have their septic serviced regularly was really crippling.

Do you see Paradise moving in a different direction moving forward?

At the community meeting at Laxson Auditorium last Thursday, that was addressed. Our mayor has the chops to get it done. She [Jody Jones] brought it up before the fire and she’s doing it again.