Lake Isabella businesses struggling amid drought

Posted at 11:22 AM, Sep 11, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-11 14:22:11-04

As Lake Isabella sinks lower and lower, so do the hearts of nearby business owners.

"No water, no camping, no business is what the slogan should be," Jim Wyly owner of Mt. Mesa Market said.

After watching Lake Isabella dry up over the past four years, businesses are frustrated. To make matters worse, 2015 is the driest yet.

"It's been gradually getting a little worse each year, this is probably the lightest that I've seen for business," Lakeside Motel Co-Owner Bob Jamison said.

Each business has history here and their own reason to keep going.

"It started as a coffee shop, that my grandparents built,"  Business Partner of Paradise Cove Lodge John Blythe said.

Paradise Cove, a combination hotel, restaurant and saloon, has been in the Blythe family for three generations, originally built in the  1950s.

"We do get a lot of people who stop here, you know we get a lot of tourists from Europe, Germany, France the UK," Blythe said.

"We drove down and stayed in Morro Bay last night, so that was nice right by the water, and today we're coming inland so we thought we'd come here through the Sequoia National Park and we're staying at Palamint Springs in Death Valley tonight then it's off for a week in Vegas," Tourist Julie Wiggs said.

But the tourists are not excited about stopping at the lake anymore.

"We did expect, it seemed quite large on the map for there to be somewhere where you can stop off maybe get a coffee or just sit down and by the lake- we wanted a coffee overlooking the lake- but that was our idea," Wiggs and her husband said.

For those in the hospitality business that's not good news. Jamison said the motel is down 40% from their peak several years ago.

The Lakeview Motel now overlooks a desert, full of bushes instead of water and their vacancy sign hangs welcoming any passerby.

"For this time of year, it would not normally be uncommon for us to be half full every night, unfortunately if if we get 2 maybe 3 we'll consider ourselves very lucky," Jamison said.

Down the street, at Mt. Mesa Market, the same view outside is creating strain inside.

"The wife and I fill in for everybody's lunch hours," Wyly said.

The busiest time for the market is the lunch hour, their prime attraction is the meat counter.

"It's been good to us, it's been very good to us, it's just later in life you think things would be better at this point but right now with the economy and what's going on with us right now it might be a few years before things turn around," Wyly said.

Some business owners call this the perfect storm, between the weak economy and the drought, businesses are left trying whatever they can to push through.

"Everybody across the board has had their hours cut, just because of the lack of, you know the lack of sales," Wyly said.

"We advertise, we have our website, we try to converse with people in other countries," Jamison said.

"There's other stuff to do even though the lake has been low," Blythe said.

Saying there are other ways to attract visitors. No matter who you talk with, each business owner has hope that the lake will rise again.

"Oh yeah it'll come back, it'll come back, you just gotta hang on, are you going to hang on? We're hanging on, by our shirt threads but we're hanging on," Wyly said.