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Support poured in for Talent winery

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Clea Arthur pours samples of wine for Rotary Club members Michelle Corradetti, center, and Erin Kiene Thursday at Simple Machine Winery in Talent. Photo by Denise Baratta
Simple Machin's new gray metal building along South Pacific Highway in Talent offers wine tasters the option of outdoor seating. Photo by Denise Baratta
Brian Denner and Clea Arthur have reopened Simple Machine in its original location, even keeping the fire-scarred floor, after it burned down in the 2020 Almeda fire in Talent. Photo by Denise Baratta
Simple Machine receives last drop of Rotary fire recovery funds

Simple Machine, the Talent winery and tasting room destroyed in the Almeda fire, received the final small business grant from a United Rotary Clubs of Southern Oregon effort that has awarded about $400,000 in grants to small businesses affected by the Sept. 8, 2020 conflagration.

More than 160 small business received amounts ranging from $800 to $6,500.

Rotary officers presented Simple Machine’s owners with a check for $5,000 Nov. 18. The company, which has already rebuilt its facility and is producing wine, will use the money to place signage along highways and on the building to increase awareness of its presence.

The funds were the first cash assistance Simple Mancine has received, said co-owner and winemaker Brain Denner. But he noted that other wineries, crush spaces and vintners jumped in right away after the fire to offer support.

That allowed Simple Machine to stay in business while it used other facilities and received donations of grapes. It also helped the couple decide to stay in business.

“At the beginning we weren’t sure. Do we have the mental, emotional and financial capacity to rebuild,” said co-owner Clea Arthur.

The couple started an After the Fire presale of white wines bottled from 2020 grapes. Lots of six or 12 bottles were offered, and the response was strong with orders coming from 22 states.

“It was special for us boxing up all the wine and shipping it out,” said Arthur. The rose and Leverage white blend were shipped this spring. A wine club also offered tremendous support and has grown to 300 members from 250 before the fire.

“It’s amazing to reopen and see the people again,” said Arthur.

The tasting room began pouring Oct. 13. The building in now more visible from the highway as a small house on the front of the lot burned down. That has allowed for more parking space, and food trucks can now be brought to the site.

Simple Machine used the same 2,700-square-foot concrete pad from the original metal building that was destroyed by the fire. A ring on the concrete floor marks a spot where an oak barrel burned. The couple had leased the building when it was new in 2017 to move the business into a permanent home, then purchased it a couple years later.

Rebuilding allowed them to create a space tailored toward wine production, with rooms that can be controlled at different temperatures, drains in the floor, and walls with materials that can be more easily cleaned after wine making.

Cost of rebuilding was 40% over the insurance reimbursement due to increased building and materials costs, said Arthur. Ausland Group did the rebuild in a little under four months. Denner was able to start processing grapes there less than a year after the fire.

“Considering the supply chains and labor issues, it was incredible,” said Arthur. Ausland handled all phases of the project.

Rotary’s Back to Work program received about half the funds via grants from Rogue Credit Union, Oregon Community Foundation, All Care Health and others. The other half was donated primarily by local Rotarians, but also from Rotary clubs in Grants Pass and as far away as Colorado and Wisconsin.

“It is so gratifying to make a difference in the community. What you give comes back three times,” said Michelle Corradetti, a board member of United Rotary. The organization is a collaboration of all 10 clubs in Jackson County representing more than 600 Rotarians.

The greatest number of recipients were sole proprietors, such as yard maintenance, house cleaners and handymen and women, who lost their homes and equipment in the blaze. Owners of brick-and-mortar operations also received assistance, including auto mechanics, electricians, a bike shop owner, a coffee shop owner, a dog groomer and others.

“We knew that it was small businesses that were going to have trouble putting it back together,” said Bob Hunter, a member of the Rotary group’s board of directors. One of his favorites was a sushi chef who needed a new set of knives after his were lost in the blaze.

Southern Oregon Regional Economic Development, Inc. assisted with the project, said Hunter. They vetted applicants and tracked down paperwork to allow Rotary to get grant checks delivered in a timely manner.

Simple Machine is located at 717 S. Pacific Highway. The tasting room is open from noon to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday.

Reach Ashland freelance writer Tony Boom at tboomwriter@gmail.com.