Santa Rosa mall showing signs of recovery as business returns year after Tubbs Fire

SANTA ROSA, Calif. (KGO) -- A nail at a time. A building at a time. One year later, pockets of Santa Rosa have become miracles rebuilding in slow motion.

So maybe it's easy to overlook the Mark West Center.

"I knew we would make it, you know," said Carmen Campos, who makes the best burgers in town according to some people.

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Campos certainly works in the luckiest shopping mall. The Mark West Center remained standing after the Tubbs Fire last year, when almost everything else around it burned.

"I was back here the next morning-- it was 120 degrees everywhere," said Joel Chandler, who is rebuilding his home in Larkfield Estates, just across the street.

For the neighborhood, Mark West Center has always felt like home. Its collection of shops and restaurants survived, but not easily. At Badass Coffee, Jeri Deatherage told us how after the fire, her morning commuter business disappeared. And yet, the coffee shop remains.

"We have been here 11 years. We did not want to walk away. We're part of the community."

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In the last year, that community has changed. It turns out that salvation came from a different clientele
"Now it's construction guys," said Campos.

"We're building 46 homes across the street-- 67 employees. They all eat," said Ron Cupp, a builder waiting for his burger.

Nobody says business is up-- not with the dinner crowd gone. It's down roughly 20-percent, up from 30-percent.

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"We used to be open later but there is nobody here, so we close at five," said Deatherage.

Still, that is much better than the alternative.

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