For someone whose storefront was forced to close due to a chaotic fire, Outlook business owner Jacq’y Carlson is maintaining a positive mindset at a time when most others in her situation likely wouldn’t.
The owner of Jacq’y Jaye’s Boutique & Espresso Bar, an Outlook staple on Saskatchewan Avenue which was recently recognized as the 2016 Business of the Year at last month’s Community Appreciation Awards banquet, says she wants to keep staying positive and work towards making sure the doors of the store open as soon as possible.
“I’ve been very optimistic and positive through it, and trying to really push through and get open as soon as possible,” said Jacq’y, sitting down with The Outlook this past Monday morning, one week after the fire to the neighboring buildings had occurred. “Anything we can do that’s going to make this process quicker and easier, I want us to open as soon as possible. So that’s where I’m at right now; staying positive and doing anything we can do. We took yesterday off from coming down to the store, but other than that, we’ve been here the full week trying to help out where we can and make sure everything is going smoothly.”
At around 1:30 am on Easter Monday, April 17, a blaze broke out on Saskatchewan Avenue in town that eventually took a fiery hold of the old Outlook Electric building, as well as the office building next door. The Outlook Fire Department spent hours through the night in fighting the flames, and RCMP rerouted traffic away from the scene during the morning part of the day. When all was said and done, the two buildings were a complete loss and were destroyed and removed, with nothing but a large dirt hole remaining at the time of this publication.
Upon hearing of the fire, Carlson said she was virtually in a state of denial, seemingly intent on opening the store right away, even as she and her husband Brian rushed down in the middle of the night and saw what was happening in downtown Outlook.
“I’m going to say denial, and shock more so,” she said, on her first reactions upon hearing the news. “We got a call at three in the morning, as the fire department wanted to get into the building to make sure they could keep the wall cool and check for heat spots. So we came down here, and I was down here until about 4:30 in the morning, and then I told Brian that I should get home to get some sleep because tomorrow was going to be a long day, thinking I was going to open the store!”
As far as Jacq’y was concerned, it was going to be business as usual right away. However, new information coming in all the time about what had been done eventually made her realize that the doors had to close for the time being.
“I had full expectations of coming in and opening as normal,” she said.
“I think Brian just humored me at the time because he probably knew there was more extensive damage than that, as well as just with the business around the fire area. He came back down here and stayed through the night, helping where he could. I called him in the morning and he goes, ‘Don’t hurry down to work, you won’t be opening today’. From there, I guess it was just suppose, ‘Oh well, I’ll be open Tuesday’, and as we talked to insurance adjustors and the cleanup crews, I finally learned that ‘You’re not opening this quick’. So my initial reaction was definitely that I should be able to move forward and get this done as quickly as possible if there are no problems.”
Fire damage can be a tricky thing from a visual perspective, as it’s not always so clear what exactly has been done to any business building or the merchandise being sold inside.
“I still don’t (know the extent),” said Jacq’y, on the damage done inside the store. “The more we talk to our neighbors on the street, we’re finding out there’s more damage. Visually, when I walked into the store, I went ‘Oh, well this looks fine, I can open’. There was a little bit of damage outside the building and a little bit of soot and water in the basement. For my main level, I thought I could open up the coffee shop the next day, but the more I talked to them, they said that I couldn’t as there’s been smoke damage in here, and you don’t really see the effect that smoke has on items.”
For a business such as Carlson’s, which sells merchandise such as jewelry, footwear and clothing, the damage to the inventory stock means basically starting from square one as far as restocking the store shelves and opening back up.
“They’ve taken all my stock, and I do not get that back,” Jacq’y explained. “I’m basically starting back from square one. What happens is once there’s been any fire or smoke damage at all, that item is not new anymore. They can take it to do some cleaning or processes on it, but I don’t want to sell stuff that has been in that type of situation anyway, and I also don’t think it’s fair to the community to always have to wonder about any smoke damage. It’s the best way, but it’s not the easiest way to get up and going quickly, because now I have to start from square one by ordering. So that’s going to take up a little bit of time, and as soon as I can get stock back in the store and the rest of this stuff done, I hope to be open.”
As far as damages go, the exact dollar amount isn’t quite known just yet, as Carlson waits to hear from insurance providers as it relates to what’ll be covered. However, she’s grateful that the building hasn’t seemed to be harmed too badly, as she knows that isn’t the case elsewhere.
“We’re still waiting on that,” she said, on hearing back from her insurance. “I don’t really know the details on that. I’m still waiting on insurance to get back to me as to what is or isn’t covered, and we’re doing as much as we can here just to save on costs. The process isn’t as quick as I thought it would be, but I’m sure my neighbors have bigger issues; I still happen to have four walls.”
Since the doors closed a little over a week ago, the support from Jacq’y’s customers and the community has helped keep her in good spirits.
“I’m getting quite a few people reaching out to me and just asking if there’s anything that they can do,” she said. “People are basically saying that they’ll be back once we open and sentiments such as that, so it’s been really good.”
As far as a re-opening date is concerned, that isn’t 100% known just yet. But as Jacq’y, Brian and crews work at cleaning up the store and getting it back into shape, the hope is that the doors open back up within a matter of weeks.
“Ideally, I wanted to be open the next day, obviously,” Carlson laughed. “As far as a timeline to reopen, again, that isn’t clear right now. It depends on when the store gets fully cleaned, as it’s getting a full cleanup. I’m not necessarily going to wait for all my stock to arrive; as soon as I get the coffee shop up and going, we’ll start with that. My hope is to be open within three weeks, but it could be sooner.”