Community steps up for Solana Beach cafe shuttered by theft
Homestead is open again after fellow businesses, residents step up to replace stolen furniture
When Jamie Brawn arrived at his Homestead Solana Beach cafe on the morning of Aug. 18, his first impulse was to call his wife, Marie, to ask if she’d loaned out all of their outdoor tables and chairs without telling him.
Sometime overnight, a man whose image was captured on nearby surveillance video stole all the furniture outside the 2-year-old cafe at 346 S. Cedros Ave., as well as several items from two nearby Cedros Avenue businesses. A suspect has been arrested for the crimes and many of the stolen items have been recovered, but most of Homestead’s items were not. For Jamie and Marie Brawn, the burglary was just one more blow they’ve suffered this year as a result of the pandemic.
On March 11, the Leucadia couple closed Homestead Cafe due to the ongoing uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic. Then, when the county’s social-distancing orders were announced a week later, almost all of the spring and summer bookings for their Root Cellar Catering Co. were canceled. Suddenly, the Brawns — who have two sons, ages 8 and 12 — went from having a thriving family-run business to zero income overnight.
“It was really scary,” Marie Brawn said. “We were making a nice living and providing for our family one week, and the next week we didn’t know if we’d be able to feed our kids.”
Fortunately, the Burt Family Foundation helped the Brawns launch their +BOX charity program, which since April has provided 15,500 meals for needy families with children in K-12 schools in the community. On May 29, the Brawns reopened Homestead for outdoor dining with furniture and decor they either purchased or borrowed from the Solana Beach Farmers Market. With no indoor seating allowed, they turned the interior of their cafe into a community grab-and-go grocery market. Things were looking up until the burglary occurred.
On Aug. 18, San Diego County Sheriff’s deputies arrested Ricardo Rodriguez, 43, of Solana Beach on suspicion of grand theft, petty theft, vandalism over $400 and being under the influence, according to Sheriff’s Lt. Todd Norton. As of Monday, Aug. 24, Rodriguez remained in custody at the downtown San Diego jail. Deputies were able to recover several items taken the night before, including several wine barrels and a ladder from Carruth Cellars Urban Winery and Tasting Room, Norton said.
The Brawns did not get their patio furniture back, and they didn’t want to further endanger items they’d borrowed from the farmers market, so they returned them and closed their cafe down from the 18th through 22.
“It was really disappointing,” Marie Brawn said. “We were working hard, trying to put our best foot forward and trying to give as much as we can, and then this happened. We were just like, ‘what more can I do, universe? What do you want from me? We need a break.”
That break arrived swiftly last week when word got out to the community about the Brawns’ loss. The Del Mar Fairgrounds and Folklore Event Rentals showed up with truckloads of loaner tables and chairs. And a Gofundme campaign Marie launched with a $20,000 goal has already exceeded its goal, with nearly $24,000 collected as of Monday afternoon, Aug. 24. On Sunday, Aug. 23, the Brawns reopened Homestead for brunch. A huge crowd turned out and local musicians provided free music all day.
Brawn said that she’s been humbled by the community’s support, particularly because working in the hospitality business, she’s usually the one delivering a service to the community, not the other way around.
“It’s hard to ask for help in this industry when you’re used to giving,” she said. “To be taken care of in this way has been really overwhelming. It warms our hearts. We really appreciate the support and we feel that love.”
Homestead is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesdays-Sundays. To contribute to the Brawns’ Gofundme account, visit gofundme.com/f/feeding-k-12-families-through-adversity .
— Pam Kragen is a reporter for The San Diego Union-Tribune
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