Sonu Chandi, fourth from left, and the Chandi Hospitality crew at the newly rebuilt Mountain Mike’s Pizza in Santa Rosa, California.
Last Friday Sonu Chandi, president of Chandi Hospitality, and his brother opened their 4,500-square-foot Mountain Mike’s Pizza restaurant on Cleveland Avenue in Santa Rosa, California. In October 2017, their store was one of 55 businesses destroyed in the Tubbs Fire.
“It was completely burned down. We literally had zero asset left,”said Chandi, who recalled the scene when he and his brother raced to the site after 1 a.m., fortunately after the restaurant was closed so no one was hurt.
“We drove around Santa Rosa that night, and it was unreal, something you see in these crazy imaginative movies, that’s the kind of devastation,”he said.
“It’s hard to describe. As a family we’ve been through a lot,”he said. “Not just closing the location, the uncertainty of what’s going to happen in this area. More importantly many people had to move away because of the housing shortage and prices had gone up. It’s starting to re-adjust itself, but there has been multiple impacts.”
It was a “very stressful situation, because we’re so invested in Santa Rosa and Sonoma County. One, we lost a site, and two, many employees were impacted in losing their apartment, losing their house, or their loved ones”losing those things.
Chandi said they never considered abandoning the area and building somewhere else. “Because we are committed this much already in this community with the other businesses, it made sense for us to kind of lead and build,”he said.
At their soft opening last Friday, people expressed gratitude. “We’re seeing people coming in, saying ‘Hey, wow, amazing, you rebuilt and stayed committed.’”
Chandi Hospitality is the area developer for13 Mountain Mike’s, five owned directly by the brothers and others in various partnerships, all in the North Bay area from Marin County up to Humboldt County. The restaurants make up more than 70 percent of Chandi Hospitality’s business, and they’ve been in the system for just over 12 years.
After the fire, Chandi said, his group and the franchisor of Mountain Mike’s got together to create “pizzas for a purpose,”raising $50,000 in funds that will go toward re-building efforts in the region.
He is on the Rebuild North Bay board, a non-profit looking for ways to prevent devastating fires in the future. “There’s a lot of proactive approaches being taken, but it’s not an overnight thing. We have to find solutions,”he said.