Malibu Fires Shut Down Major Fashion Retailers

As a raging brush fire threatened Malibu, Calif., with hundreds of residents being evacuated, shops and boutiques throughout the affluent seaside community were forced to close their doors on Nov. 9 until further notice.

Malibu’s main roads, such as Pacific Coast Highway, were closed to traffic as fast-moving fires destroyed homes in the surrounding hills, and ash and smoke blanketed the city.

Nearby, Calabasas, Calif., and Ventura County also were hit hard. The mandatory evacuations may have been the first time in recent memory that fires forced stores to shutter at prominent Malibu retail centers such as the Malibu Country Mart and the Malibu Lumber Yard. Both retail centers are frequented by celebrities as well as residents and tourists.

Located across the street from the Pacific Ocean, the centers are best known for designer and contemporary stores such as Maxfield, James Perse, Ron Herman and Canvas . Malibu.

Other prominent stores in the city include the standalone surfwear shop Boardriders, which opened in May.

Jefferson Wagner, the owner of the core surf shop Zuma Jay, was hospitalized after trying to save his Malibu home from flames. He is the mayor pro tem of that city.

The citywide store evacuation was ordered Nov. 9 before boutiques at the retail centers had opened. Retailer M.Fredric, which has a store at the Malibu Country Mart, was forced to close five other boutiques located from Ventura to around the West San Fernando Valley because of the Woolsey and Hill fires, said Fred Levine, an M.Fredric co-owner. He also had to close his offices and warehouse in Agoura Hills, Calif.

“Half of our stores are closed. But we’re going to have to bear through it,” Levine said. “We’re thankful we are safe. We have not lost structures. A lot of people have lost structures. We have lot to be thankful.”

When his staff is given the green light, they will open the stores and check for smoke damage to inventory.

In December 2017, a few M.Fredric stores closed for a couple of weeks because of the devastating Ventura fires. Levine declined to say whether those stores sustained any financial losses from those fires.

Arlington Forbes, the co-owner of Canvas . Malibu, which sells art and fashion, said local residents will have to rebuild. “So many of my customers have lost homes in the flames. Initially, it will be about replenishing things,” he said. “Now the priority is about how we can help the community.”

During previous disasters, when community members lost all of their belongings, some did not have access to credit cards. He and his wife/business partner, Jacqueline Forbes, have given clothes to people and offered items on generous credit terms.

Fire also upended plans for Trinidad Garcia III. For months, he had been lobbying to open a pop-up shop on the Malibu Pier. Last week, he got a green light to open. On Nov. 8, he dropped off a 1968 Airstream trailer at the pier filled with inventory from his emerging denim brand Trinidad 3.

“I’m on standby,” said Garcia, referring to when he can pick up his Airstream and inventory. “I hope the goods don’t smell like smoke. I’m sure I can dry clean everything.”