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By Miriam Raftery


April 20, 2021 (Ranchita) – The Manzanita Valley Market, Ranchita’s only grocery outlet, is known for its iconic Yeti statue. The market has long been a roadside attraction for motorists and cyclists heading to or from the Anza Borrego desert. It’s also been a popular stop for hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail, who would stock up on supplies or even sleep over in a bunkhouse.  

But on April 18, a fire destroyed the market owned by two veterans, also heavily  damaging the Ranchita Real Estate office next door. The damage totaled $350,000, according to Cal Fire. The Yeti statue built by realtor Joseph Ruah of Ranchita Real Estate next door survived the fire. (It’s also known as the Rancheti or Sasquatch..) But for the market's owners, the losses are devastating.


The market posted this announcement on Facebook:  “We are saddened to announce our store burned down early this morning. Nobody was hurt, for that we are grateful. We will be closed until further notice. Thank you all for your support. Take care.”

A Go Fund Me site started by Chesney Hoagland-Fuchs aims to help the family rebuild. 

The site states, “The owners, Mike and Kemmi, have poured their hearts into building this business…the Montezuma Valley Market is the dream of two young people who have served their country in the military and planned to be the change they want to see for the local community. They have served our community so well, and never expected, or even thought they would ever need,  anything in return. Now, this family needs our help!”

According to the site, “Just prior to the fire, they learned that their daughter has cancer. She began chemotherapy last week and will continue for some time. It turns out that the insurance will barely cover the lost inventory.  So, if you want the market to rebuild, please donate.”  

So far, the site has generated around $12,000 – but the goal is to raise $200,000. 

You can make a donation at https://gf.me/v/c/9kmd/help-montezuma-market. 

People who have made donations shared memories and posted comments thanking the owners for their support for the community. 

Janet Cristina Warren wrote, “You've given so much to our communities and those who pass through...so selflessly, with such vision, and such kindness. My prayers are with you as you face the challenges with your daughter's illness...and now this, as well. You have bettered our community immensely since buying the store. Now is our chance to give back. You are loved and appreciated, and will be supported through this sad time.” 

Shannon Ryker posted, “Thank You for all you do in the hiking community! We hope to see you back on your feet soon and doing what you do best, putting smiles on hiker's faces!”

Kelly Witt commented, “I am a former San Diego County firefighter and served at the Ranchita Fire Station for a short time. Your market was always very kind to us and supported our crews. I am honored to return the favor. Best wishes to you as you look to rebuild such a wonderful asset to the community.”

Amy Barer stated, “We have family members that bicycle to the store every year, and we like helping good people.”

Maryellen Cooley recalled, “We spent one night a couple weeks ago resting up in Ranchita, and it turned out to be one of our favorite parts of the hike, such was the unexpected grandeur…this news is so sad and I am thinking about you guys with love.”