I had a strong dose of déjà vu as I toured the distinctive Victorian house at 625 Chapala Street last week. Walking up to the front porch, I recalled vivid scenes from years past: people milling about the front door, the sound of laughter coming from inside, and mouthwatering smells wafting down the street. For more than 15 years, 625 Chapala was Chad’s Restaurant, one of Santa Barbara’s favorite happy-hour and dinner hot spots.
Chad’s closed its doors in 2008, and today, the tall, ornately detailed, wood-framed building is the home of Jodi House, a support center for adults who have suffered brain injuries. Jodi House offers classes, activities, and one-on-one case management for brain injury survivors, and it’s the only facility in the entire tri-county area to do so. A warm environment and sense of community is evident as soon as one steps through the front door of Jodi House.
The front room of the house is a cozy library with inviting armchairs and floor-to-ceiling bookshelves filled with thousands of donated books for Jodi House members to borrow. One wall of this room is decorated with handmade posters that depict and tell the story of Jodi House.
In 1982, Jodi Wustman was a 19-year-old college student, born and raised in Santa Barbara, who was hit by a drunk driver. Her accident resulted in a severe traumatic brain injury. When Jodi was released from the hospital, her parents found an acute lack of local resources for patients and their families. They collaborated with families of other survivors to build a network of rehabilitative services, and Jodi House was born. In 1994, a physical facility was secured on Veronica Springs Road, and in 2010, through the generosity of benefactors, Jodi House was able to purchase and move to its current location at 625 Chapala Street.
Walking through the house, I discovered that beyond the library are two big, open living room spaces, separated by an original two-sided fireplace. Events, meetings, and support groups take place at Jodi House each week. Classes ranging from yoga, meditation, and music to finance, computer skills, and healthy cooking are offered daily. A large addition to the original residence provides a huge commercial kitchen and office space. A separate building behind the house referred to as “the barn” is where most of the classes and some community meetings are held. More offices and a bathroom are upstairs in what were originally bedrooms, and then they were later used as some of the dining space at Chad’s. The entire building was updated when Jodi House moved in and is ADA compliant, yet its period details and turn-of-the-century charm remain intact. It has been designated as a Santa Barbara city structure of merit and has historic landmark status.
The house was built in 1875 by Charles Sherman, a prominent businessperson who was also elected sheriff of Santa Barbara. Sherman co-owned the Sherman and Ealand butcher shop at 636 State Street with his partner, William Ealand, who also owned a house next door at 621 Chapala. In fact, all of the residences on the 500 and 600 blocks of Chapala during the late 1800s were owned by families who also owned businesses on State Street.
The Shermans lived in the house until 1922, and then a series of other families bought and resided there over the next 50 years. In 1973, the house became a retail store called Yesterday’s Cupboard Antiques, and in 1976 it became the Unification Center Church. It was turned into a restaurant in 1979, first known as Sherman House and then later as Somerset, and in 1992 it became Chad’s Restaurant, which it remained until 2008.
I’m sure I’m not the only former Chad’s patron who recalls its lively patio, the crowded happy hours, and the trademark coin-flip Monday nights. If diners called the coin toss correctly, dinner was on the house. But today, the staff of Jodi House probably call themselves the lucky ones. They provide much-needed services in a beautiful historic building in the heart of downtown Santa Barbara. The name and mission have changed, but the warmth and sense of community at 625 Chapala are stronger than ever.
Jodi House will hold its largest annual fundraiser on Saturday, April 8, with the Jodi House Hike, Walk, and Roll event at Elings Park’s Godric Grove (1298 Las Positas Rd.) in Santa Barbara, 8:30 a.m.-2 p.m. The public is invited to volunteer, donate, or participate in this fun family day. For information, visit jodihouse.org or call 563-2882.