Talent businesses suffer from survivors guilt

TALENT, Ore.— More than 5 months after the Almeda Fire, some businesses that survived are going through survivor’s guilt.

Co-owner and head chef of The Grotto Pizzeria, Anthony Mouyios, says getting back to work after the first few days of the September 8 fire were some of the hardest.

“We couldn’t get back into town for like 10 days,” Mouyios said. “We cried, I mean we absolutely cried.”

Since the pandemic started, like many other restaurants, The Grotto has a seen a drop in customers.

But after the fire, he says he often doesn’t see the same regular customers as he did before.

“That’s the kind of focus on our talking point when we’re working is, ‘gosh I haven’t seen this guy in a long time, hopefully, he got out ok with his family,” Mouyios said. “We always have those thoughts in our head.” 

The Grotto is located on Main street. Right across the street, at the intersection of Talent Avenue and Main street is leftover wreckage from the fire.

Mouyios grew up in Talent. He says he sometimes feels guilty that his business survived, while so many that he’s grown up with didn’t.

In order to cope, he’s been teaming up with Rogue Unites to provide fire victims with free meals every day.

“We do 40 lunches, 6 days a week and then we do 2 dinners 2 days a week.”

Just down the street from him is the Arbor House located on West Wagner Street.

The owner, Leah Calhoun, says although her business wasn’t burnt down she still feels the community’s loss.

“They call it survivors remorse kind of, it’s hard.

Like Mouyios, Calhoun has grown up in Talent. The Arbor House is family-owned and has been open for 41 years.

She said it took her weeks before opening back up.

“It was hard for me to think that people would want to come and drive through all this devastation to come and spend money on a fine dining dinner.” 

Everyday Calhoun drives on Talent Avenue, passing what used to be homes, businesses, and people’s most prized possessions.

She gets teary-eyed thinking about what used to be.

“I live right here in talent, to drive past it every single day and to remember what happened and to wonder what our community is going to grow into its pretty traumatic.”

Before opening back up, Calhoun gave out community meals and helped raise $37,000 for fire victims.

Both she and Mouyios say giving back was a way that made them feel a little bit better about being open and staying in business.

“We’re rebuilding and you can look around and see smiles on people’s faces again and hope is in the air,” Mouyios said.



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