From stitches to sutures
Diverse businesses are building back
November 18, 2021 | View PDF
Ethyria, a women's garment line, and Orchid Health, a rural health care provider, both burned up over a year ago. Flames in Blue River did not destroy them despite consuming their physical assets.
Anna Bjornsdotter, raised in the world of costume design, had started her "contemporary classics" clothing company over a decade ago. After relocating to the River she had been working out of a studio in the upriver town, while her husband Jose's fine art studio was at their house in Vida.
"It has been really devastating," Anna says. "We both lost everything we ever created, except one dress that I evacuated in (now dubbed the evacuation dress) and one sketchbook my husband found in the car later."
The financial impact has been profound, since the couple suffered the loss of both their businesses at the same time, along with their Vida home and possessions. "It has made for a rough year, but I just started designing costumes for the Shedd Institutes holiday production, so I would say that we are recovering slowly," Anna said.
Only a few blocks away, Orchid Health was wiped out when the leased building that housed their exam rooms and office burned to the ground. Following that devastation, the staff relocated in Rainbow to keep, "Working remotely as well as in a mobile clinic to provide primary care services to the patients and community in Blue River and the surrounding areas," according to Bill Roller, Orchid's billing and administrative director.
Soon after the fire, Orchid's staff was able to set up makeshift quarters inside the Rustic Skillet Quilt Shop in Rainbow, only a short distance from the edge of fire-ravaged areas. Nearly 80% of Orchid Health staff had to evacuate, and Dr. Tia Cloke, DNP, had lost her home.
In addition to the makeshift accommodations inside the quilt shop space, they also arranged for a mobile medical clinic in an RV that had two fully-equipped exam rooms (and even a small lab). Though tight, the workspace allowed them to continue seeing patients until remodeling of the Rustic Skillet building was recently completed.
"We have completed the remodel so we have an actual working clinic now," says clinic manager Shainy Love. "We had previously been seeing patients on our mobile clinic and we were all working out of a one-room building. We are super excited to be up and running and this building is an integral part of providing high-quality care to our patients."
Orchid has partnered with Capitol Dental's Tiny House Dental Clinic which sets up in the parking lot two days per month. Community members are eligible for a free screening regardless of health insurance status.
Down the road, people can expect to see a return to normal thanks to McKenzie Valley Wellness plans are moving ahead to reconstruct the original clinic in Blue River. "We are looking forward to the rebuild and we meet monthly with MVW for planning and development, so things are moving forward with that project as well," Shainy says.
Like the Indigo Café and George R Kruse Construction, both Ethyria and Orchid Clinic were recent recipients of grants aimed at recovery from wildfires.
"The Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce was absolutely honored to receive funds from OCCU Foundation to help restore, rebuild, and return hope to businesses impacted by the Holiday Farm Fire," according to Dani Thompson, Economic Development Specialist with the chamber. After getting the opportunity to deliver some of these grants in-person to a few of the businesses that were awarded, I can say wholeheartedly that hope is exactly what these businesses provided me with. Although there is much more work that needs to be done, it was truly outstanding to see the rebuilding and restoration that has already occurred within the last year."
Those thoughts echo what Anna Bjornsdotter says she experienced. "The first month was a shocked daze. Everything I ever made is gone. All of Jose's art is gone, all of Viggo's things," she recalls. "Only the love and support from the community made it bearable; making us feel that we are not alone. I would have never thought in all my life that so many people cared about what happened to us. I feel so incredibly grateful and so incredibly heartbroken, two strange feelings to have together."
Other help in rebuilding Ethyria came from the Viking Sewing Center in Eugene, which held a fundraiser so Anna could get a sewing machine suitable for prolonged intense sewing, yet can be used in a hotel room or a house. "Industrial sewing machines are too big and heavy," she says. Plus, the Rotary Club kicked in, "With another grant to start building back our business, and now this wonderful grant. This is what has made all this bearable and given our family the feeling that we can get through this time; the truth that people actually do care about us and want to help, be that with a grant or with helping us clear our property," Anna says. "The Long Term Recovery Group and Development Northwest has given me someone to ask for guidance when I don't know how to accomplish something in our recovery efforts, and I am so grateful."
Examples of her work and a bit about her history can be viewed at https://ethyria.com.