Olentangy Valley News

Blaze can't keep Collection down

After June 27 fire, deluge of support, shop looks ahead to reopening at new site

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Within days of a fire that destroyed their Depot Street store's inventory in late June, Anne Grayson and Ron Oman already were planning for the Collection's reopening.

Thanks in part to an outpouring of support from the community, they said, the furniture and decor business should be open to customers again in less than a month at a new location on North Liberty Street in downtown Powell.

The fire broke out shortly before 7:30 p.m. June 27, while the annual Powell Festival was being held less than a half-mile away at Village Green Park. A friend who was working at the festival called the Orange Township residents to alert them to the fire as they were getting ready to leave home to visit the event.

No one was injured, and firefighters largely had the blaze contained before 8 p.m. Grayson said the initial fire did not seriously damage much of the inventory, but after two reignitions and subsequent efforts to extinguish them, almost all of the merchandise was ruined either by fire, smoke or water damage.

"It started up in the morning and that was basically what just ruined everything," Oman said.

Grayson said she was told the fire likely was electrical and started somewhere in the building's attic. Liberty Township Fire Department officials said the damage to the site and property may exceed $800,000.

Grayson said she tried to find pieces of furniture worth salvaging to donate to Habitat to Humanity in the days after the fire, but almost everything that survived was severely water-damaged or covered in mold.

Oman's been using a borrowed piece of demolition equipment to destroy once-beautiful chests and sofas that were too far gone to save.

"I've been crunching furniture for the last five days," Oman said last week.

The business owners acted quickly, moving from the former location in an old freight depot near the CSX railroad tracks to a space in an old flour mill at 36 N. Liberty St. Oman said the decision to rent the smaller space as a temporary home for the business was made within a few days of the fire.

Grayson said her insurance agent told her many people in her position would take a year off. She said she thought a long hiatus would jeopardize the business' place in the community.

"We felt like if we wanted to keep it going, we had to do something right away," Grayson said.

Oman said he expects the Collection to be open at the new location in a few weeks, with a grand reopening possible in about a month. The rebuilding efforts at the Depot Street site could take eight months to a year.

Grayson said the community's reaction to the news of the fire has been "heartwarming." Oman said multiple customers and Powell residents have offered to volunteer their time to help with rebuilding efforts at the old store.

A few weeks after the fire, a group of Thomas Worthington High School lacrosse players volunteered for a day, helping to clear debris from in front of the business. Grayson, a Thomas Worthington graduate, said she could not thank the students enough.

"It's so hard ... to go down there and see just a pile of char in front of your store," she said. "To just see that gone, it's like, OK, we're moving forward."

"Those guys were unbelievable," Oman added.

Oman said hundreds of people already have asked him if the store has reopened yet.

The Collection has been selling furniture in Powell since 1994 and moved into the building at 41 Depot St. about a decade ago.

Grayson and Oman attributed the success of their business to finding ways to bring in and craft unique pieces, while striving to keep prices affordable.

Oman said the business purchases samples, many of which are one-of-a-kind pieces, from artisans and manufacturers.

"That's where we're different than anybody else," he said. "We get prototypes and then we do custom work."

Grayson said the business' staff is dedicated to making sure its customers walk out with pieces that fit their homes.

Store manager Holly Cook said Grayson has a great eye for the next big thing in home decor.

"She stays on trend a lot, too," Cook said of Grayson. "She stays almost ahead of it."

Grayson said that, while the fire was a painful setback, it wasn't enough to keep the Collection closed for good.

"You just have to keep moving forward," Grayson said. "We love this and we didn't want to give it up."

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