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Crouse hopes to rebuild

January 02, 2002

Crouse hopes to rebuild



By DAVE McMILLION / Staff Writer, Charles Town


KEARNEYSVILLE, W.Va. - The owner of an antique reproduction furniture-making business that was wiped out in a fire last month says he will go before the Jefferson County Zoning Board of Appeals Jan. 17 to ask for permission to rebuild the shop.

Lawrence Crouse's shop was in a residential zone, and although he was able to construct a three-story manufacturing building in 1988, it was a complicated regulatory process and Crouse is worried about whether county officials will allow him to rebuild.

But since he has been making furniture for 30 years, Crouse said he hopes board members will have compassion for his plight and allow him to start over.

Zoning Board of Appeals members could not be reached for comment Monday.

It will be one of two requests Crouse will make to the board.

He will also ask to expand the size of the building from 8,000 to 12,000 square feet.

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Because Crouse's business is considered a "non-conforming use," he can only expand his business by 35 percent, which would allow him to expand his building to about 9,200 square feet.

Crouse said he was in the process of requesting permission from county planners to expand the building before fire consumed it Dec. 5.

More than 100 shops in the country sold Crouse's reproduction furniture and the 30 employees who worked in the shop were limited in working space, Crouse said.

"We were just elbow-to-elbow in there," Crouse said.

While Crouse waits for the Zoning Board of Appeals meeting, he is trying to put together a temporary production operation.

A building that was used for a showroom has been converted into a furniture waxing area, shipping room and office space, Crouse said.

Crouse has been insulating and running electrical service to two other storage sheds on the property in hopes of turning them into temporary production areas.

There was an outpouring of community support for Crouse after the fire destroyed his shop along W.Va. 480 near the intersection with W.Va. 9.

Crouse said he was able to make payroll for his 30 workers for 21/2 weeks after the fire thanks to cash donations that streamed in from private individuals and organizations such as local Rotary clubs.

Churches from Marlowe, W.Va. and Leetown, W.Va. each sent a pickup truck full of food to Crouse's home to be distributed to his workers.

A catering service in Martinsburg, W.Va. insisted that it not be paid for providing food at a Christmas party for Crouse's workers, he said.

"It may not be the best Christmas they had, but it wouldn't be the worst. The community has just been wonderful," Crouse said.

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