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The Dollars And Cents Of A Wildfire: A Tale Of Two Rist Canyon Businesses

Grace Hood

Six months after the High Park Fire destroyed 259 homes, many businesses have bounced back in Rist Canyon, north of Fort Collins. For some, recovery came easily. Others had a longer road to travel.

Here we tell the stories of two businesses located side by side in the town of Bellvue, located near the mouth of Rist Canyon.

Bellvue Bean

No store is more connected to the Rist Canyon community than the Bellvue Bean.

The coffee shop’s owners Azarie and Darren Wurtzburg had managed operations for just under two years before the High Park Fire hit and prompted a three-day evacuation.

“It was a very surreal and strange experience to be locked out of your business,” says Azarie. “It’s not something that you plan on.”

Wurtzburg estimates the Bellvue Bean saw a 60 to 70 percent decrease in business last June—a  $12,000 to $15,000 loss.

It took a while for business to come back. But Wurtzburg says by July 4, things were booming again.

“We had a great customer base that helped us through the transition,” she says. “People have been helping in any way that they can.”

Ultimately, Wurtzburg says the emotional stress during the June fire far outweighed the financial stress. Fortunately for her, the business bounce back has been strong enough that she and her husband opened a second coffee shop in Laporte. Cache la Bean opened in November.

Randy and Jean’s Native Trees

Credit Grace Hood
Jean and Randy Hediger with their son, Bryce.

An outpouring of community support has also been helpful to Jean and Randy Hediger, who are selling fresh-cut Christmas trees next to the Bellvue Bean for the 25th year in a row.

The couple saw hundreds of customers when they opened their stand the weekend of December 1. But getting there wasn’t easy. The Hedigers lost most of their Christmas tree inventory—about 5,000 trees—in the High Park Fire. In order to stay up and running this year, they patched together supplies from a few sources including a second property they own near Red Feather Lakes.

“That’s hundreds of thousands of dollars [lost],” says Jean. “But we have great support from our neighbors and from the community as a whole that has helped us greatly.”

Out of the High Park Fire, there was one positive note that emerged. Randy and Jean sent 10 of their trees along with the Capitol Christmas Tree to Washington D.C. this year. Jean says two of those trees were slightly burned in the wildfire, and she made tags to explain their unique history.

“I’m going to make a guess that at the White House those tags exist. I think people all over the country were interested and concerned about what happened to us in Colorado with the fires.”

Editor’s Note: 6 months later, we’re examining different areas of life affected by the High Park Fire. You can follow this series here.

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