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Fire doesn't stop business owners

January 25, 1999

Timeless MemoriesBy KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI / Staff Writer

photo: RICHARD T. MEAGHER / staff photographer




Owner Nancy Myers and her staff at Timeless Memories were doing the finishing touches on decorations for their Christmas holiday open house when tragedy struck.

The two-story gift store, housed in half of a duplex on Potomac Avenue, caught fire. Everyone got out safely, but the fire caused a loss of about $130,000 in structural damage and ruined stock.

While many retailers would have called it quits when faced with such a loss just three weeks before their busiest season, Myers, her family and staff rallied. They closed only briefly for cleaning and restocking and managed to have a successful Christmas.

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"We had a fantastic Christmas," Myers said.

She said she vowed the business would stay afloat as she watched Hagerstown firefighters putting out the blaze on Nov. 4.

The store shares a wall with Y-ME of Cumberland Valley and North End Printing, both of which sustained smoke damage. Timeless Memories reopened partially by Thanksgiving and fully on Dec. 1.

"'We can joke about it now," she said.

The accidental fire started when an employee placed paper notepads on a stove in a back room. She bumped the "on" knob, turning on the stove, Myers said.

Wind from a ceiling fan spread the embers across the room, igniting stock.

"She tried to put it out herself, but it was too big," Myers said.

Workers tried to throw the burning materials out an nearby door but were unable to, she said. "The flames were four feet high and spreading," she said.

In business for 10 years, they had never experienced a fire before, Myers said. The store was robbed several years ago.

"This was a number one nightmare. It was the first time in 10 years we were actually ready to open (on time) for our open house," she said.

Flames, smoke and water damaged a back room and bathroom on the first floor.

Myers later found out that an upstairs room in the rear had been extensively damaged.

Three Dumpsters filled with destroyed or damaged flags, stuffed animals, crafts, floral items and displays had to be hauled away.

More damaged merchandise sits in the rear of the store awaiting removal.

Myers hired a cleaning company to do the walls and remove the acrid smell, but that still left a lot of hard work for her and the staff.

"We had a real outpouring of support from the community," she said.

She said many customers called and offered to help. Local storage businesses offered to let them store items for free. "We took applications for Beanie Babies outside and people would write notes on it, asking if they could help out in any way," she said.

Myers said she has excellent insurance and anticipates fair compensation for the losses.

The fire was " a real turning point for me," she said.

She said she decided she had two choices.

With the insurance money, "I could give up and go to Florida, or stay here and start over," she said.

No quitter, Myers said, she chose to reopen and gave herself a Nov. 21 deadline.

"I was worried that she was just going to close the doors, said Myers' daughter, Karen Zeger, the business' assistant manager.

"It gave me the incentive - the push to keep going," Myers said.

She and her staff worked six days a week to get the store back in business.

Looking back on the fire, she said she harbors no resentment and is just pleased things worked out well.

"It was just another trial and tribulation of life," she said.

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