The Yeti on the Mountain


Last updated 6/1/2020 at 12:33pm

The last time we visited the Ranchita Valley Market in the March 5 issue, owners Kemi and Mike Pavlocak had just opened a beer garden in front of their market, making the local gem with a yeti even brighter. That was back in February. The last three months have changed a lot of things for them, but not their positive attitudes.

When Governor Gavin Newsom ordered all bars closed (among other things) in March, a crowd suddenly grew in the garden – and the market decided it was safest to close their doors for a couple of weeks to err on the side of safety.

During those two weeks, the Pavlocak’s were able to keep paying their employees normal wages. But as the COVID-19 endemic turned into a global pandemic, they decided to run the store on their own for the foreseeable future, to minimize health risks to their employees – although they fully intend to rehire when it seems safe to do so. One silver lining about that says Kemi, is that unemployment benefits are a little higher right now than usual.

The Ranchita Valley Market has applied for two loans, one for emergency funds and one for payroll assistance. Unfortunately, like so many other small business owners in the country, they haven’t received a response from either, much less any funds.

Kemi still commutes downtown a few times a week to work at the Navy base. Mike is able to tend the store on Kemi’s work from home days, but otherwise has become a home-school teacher to his children, just as so many other parents have.

The market remains open on weekends, but the hours of operation are a little different during the week; hours are updated weekly on their social media accounts, and they adhere strictly to CDC safety guidelines.

The weather heating up usually marks the end of the tourist season in Borrego Springs, and the Ranchita Valley Markets relies on that essential business just as Borrego stores do.

Kemi says that right now, tourism is a double edged sword; many people fear contracting COVID-19 from an out-of-towner, but at the same time, events that bring visitors also bring revenue.

Events like the Badwater Salton Sea marathon usually help them get through the end of the season, but that’s been cancelled. According to the Badwater website, the Borrego Springs Resort was to be the host hotel and restaurant for the marathon runners.

For now, the Pavlocaks are just trying to keep up with bills and hold out until the fall, when hopefully some things start to get back to normal.

While times are certainly trying right now, there is something to look forward to: the Travel Channel visited the market last year. Originally, the Ranchita Valley Market episode was to come out this spring, but has been pushed to the fall season. Although the episode has not been released here in the United States, viewers in Europe have seen the episode and some have even reached out to Kemi and Mike to say hello from across the sea. The Pavlocaks also tend bees and say their honey will be ready in the fall as well.

Things on all fronts have slowed down a little, but the yeti still wants to see you.

Rendered 02/28/2024 10:00