After a wait of more than two months, the Anchor Pantry in Vallejo has reopened.
On May 17, a morning fire damaged the Anchor Pantry and its neighbor on Marin Street, the Joint. The owner of the Anchor Pantry, Jessica Brooks, was informed by the landlord that the venue at 617 Marin Street would not be ready for several months.
“I knew it would probably be more than a few months before this venue reopened, so I immediately started looking for a new location,” Brooks said.
She didn’t have to look far.
On Saturday, the company had a soft opening party at its new headquarters at 620 Marin Street in downtown Vallejo – just across the street. A party from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. featured the famous ACME bread, lots of goodies and even make-up.
The store was striving to showcase new items and a larger location.
“After the fire, I didn’t want to go back to the same spot,” Brooks said. “It was too small. This new location is about three times the size and has a lot more space for me to bring in a lot more items. We even try to bring in beer, but this process may take a little longer.
“Seeing all the faces of the customers again, that’s great,” Brooks continued. “It was nice to be in touch again. And having all the ACME bread!”
Two months ago, there was a possibility that that day might not come. Shortly after May 17, Xavier H. Williams, 32, was arrested on a warrant and suspected arson in connection with the early morning fire that damaged the Anchor Pantry and The Joint. Williams is pleading not guilty to the charges in prison and is being represented by the Solano County Public Defender. He remains in custody at Stanton Correctional Facility in Fairfield, with bail set at $75,000.
Williams faces several other warrant-based felony charges, including carrying a loaded firearm, possession of a firearm as a felon, and vandalism. He also faces a dozen misdemeanors arising from charges ranging from contempt of court to possession of a controlled substance and petty theft.
Shortly after the May 17 fire, Williams was found nearby in the 400 block of Santa Clara Street, where he was arrested on the warrants and charges of arson, also a felony.
Vallejo Fire Department spokesman and firefighter Aaron Klauber said in May that Anchor Pantry owners noticed an alarm and video of a man at the front of the store trying to start a fire. According to Klauber, the fire brigade tried in vain to extinguish the fire with a fire extinguisher.
The fire progressed to a second alert and the flames were extinguished in 14 minutes. No injuries were reported, but the first floor of Anchor Pantry was mostly damaged, while The Joint, a retail outlet offering vintage and modern handcrafted goods, was red-signed, meaning it was considered unsafe to visit to occupy.
Two gofundme pages were started by Alibi bookstore co-owner Karen Finlay shortly after the fire was put out.
“Since opening just over a year ago, owners Jessica Brooks and Frank (Freund) have been invaluable members of our downtown community, bringing good food and goodwill to our town,” read a message on the Anchor Pantry website two months ago. “Losing her is unthinkable. Even though they have insurance, it will take them a while to get back on their feet and into a new space and they will need help with their daily expenses as this is their livelihood.”
Brooks said she didn’t have too many thoughts about going out of business for good and was “touched” that so many people came out to help her.
“I feel really good because I care so much about this community,” Brooks said. “I could have decided to go out of business, but I didn’t want to. i wanted to be here I missed that.”