To have to pack everything up and move after a devastating fire next door managed to wreak havoc on your own place of business would be a hard pill for anyone to swallow, but Brad Harris of Mann Agencies says the move over to a cozy little space at 222 Franklin Street has gone quite well.
The longtime Outlook business and its staff made the switch over to their new digs last week.
"I have to say, it went very well," said Brad, sitting down with The Outlook. "It's smaller, but we're able to manage. We looked at the whole fire situation with the attitude of 'We didn't lose our building, and no lives were lost'. It's an inconvenience at this point, and we could be out for anywhere from three to four months, or even more, depending on how fast this whole process takes place. It made me realize, and I've talked with other business people about this, that a contingency plan is so important in case you ever have something like this happen."
Mann Agencies was another one of the businesses impacted by the fire that broke out in Outlook in the middle of the night on April 17. The blaze was so bad that both the old Outlook Electric building and neighboring office space location, which were the primary buildings targeted by the flames, had to be demolished. Jacq'y Jaye's Boutique & Espresso Bar was the other business on the opposite side of the chaos, and they're still presently working hard to reopen soon.
Harris says the first thing that races through your mind when you receive a phone call such as a fire emergency is what the impact will be to your own business.
"I got the phone call at 3:30 in the morning, and when I heard there was a fire next to our building, the first thing that goes through your mind is, 'How is it affecting our building?'," he said. "So there was a lot of anxiety and wondering what you're going to do. You think, 'If my building does go down, what am I going to do next?'"
At first glance, the hope was that the damage was minimal, but Brad soon discovered that things were worse than expected.
"First we thought it was just going to be smoke damage and some water that went into the basement, but it became quite a bit more extensive than that," he said. "The disaster restoration company did three ozone treatments, and that didn't seem to help much at all. The adjusting firm sent out engineers to look at the structural stability of the building, and they determined that there's going to be a need to replace some of the cinder block wall that was affected. We're still waiting right now for a roof specialist to determine how much damage was done to the roof."
In the wake of the fire, Harris says not much was physically lost, but he learned there is much more that needs to be thought about when it comes to keeping an affected area sanitary.
"We didn't really lose a lot in terms of belongings," he said. "It is amazing though how much has to be thrown out; Kleenex, anything with a spout on it, toilet paper; and it's because it's contaminated. You don't know what kind of toxins are in the smoke. We also have to throw out our water cooler because of contamination, but those things are small. They've taken all the ceiling tile and insulation out, and with the building being completely empty right now, the odor is still quite bad."
With the original location unfit for use right now as cleanup teams continue their work, Harris and his team made the move to the office space on Franklin Street last week. Brad had seen the office space was for rent, and he commended Dwayne Preus for being very accommodating to Mann Agencies during this time. Harris realized they had to move after he had discussions with his insurance company and engineers, and he didn't want to risk exposing customers to smoke and the toxins that it can carry.
Depending on how fast the whole process goes, the new location for Mann Agencies looks to be their home for at least the next few months.
"We have to get quotes from contractors in the whole claims process," said Brad. "Whoever gets the bid on the work to be done for the claim, it's all depending on their schedule, too. I'd like to be in sooner if I could, and three to four months is just an estimate, but I'd say it's for the summer."
Despite having to move and his original location still being worked on after a fiery blaze for the immediate future, Harris says he and his team are in good spirits.
"We're trying to stay positive," he said. "I guess the stressful part about it is you want to try and keep your customers happy because we were shut down for a period of time, and there was also a period of time where we had no internet and phone lines, so we had to be very proactive. That to me is the most important part about it, trying to keep your customers happy. But we've managed to keep our chins up, and that was the main thing."