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Two shops back in business after building burns

February 08, 2002

Two shops back in business after building burns



By JULIE E. GREENE
julieg@herald-mail.com


When Cindy Lum watched a fire damage The Shoe Doctor in downtown Hagerstown last April she thought she was out of a job.

Lum and customers of the shoe repair business and neighboring music store, The Guitar Room, didn't have to wait long to find out both businesses would reopen.

"I was going to reopen some place, just not sure where," said Nick Vindivich, owner of the 109 S. Potomac St. building housing his shoe business and five apartments.

The Shoe Doctor reopened Jan. 2 in the same store damaged by the fire after Vindivich learned he could afford to refurbish it.

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The neighboring Guitar Room reopened in late August at 315 N. Cleveland Ave., said Vicky Schoppert, who co-owns The Guitar Room with her husband.

Both businesses were badly damaged last April 7 in a two-alarm fire that started in a vacant apartment on the second floor of 105 and 107 S. Potomac St., above the Guitar Room, Hagerstown Fire Department officials have said.

The fire was deliberately set, but no arrests have been made, fire officials said.

Russell Mizell Jr., landlord for 105-107 S. Potomac St., did not want to comment for this story. The first floor of the property is still vacant.

The blaze caused an estimated $350,000 in damage, fire officials said.

Vindivich attributed the survival of his business to insurance, financial security and loyal customers.

Vicky Schoppert attributed her business' survival to prayer and faith in God.

The Schopperts bought the North Cleveland Avenue building in October 2000, planning to expand and provide better parking for their customers, Schoppert said. The couple also felt the need to move the business rather than wait and see whether the downtown building they were in would be razed to make way for a Civil War museum.

The fire sped up those plans and left them without a business for about five months.

While they renovated the North Cleveland Avenue space, which they are still completing, customers stopped to check on their progress and reopening date, Schoppert said.

Lum ran into the same customer loyalty at The Shoe Doctor.

"I really have some customers, good customers, that said 'I won't go anywhere else' and 'I'll wait until you reopen,'" Lum said.

Vindivich, who is retired and has Lum manage the shop, said he was fortunate to be financially sound enough to provide for his family and keep Lum employed during the nine months the shop was closed.

Lum helped with his rental properties and oversaw the store's refurbishing, he said.

The Schopperts are still sorting through the inventory from their downtown store. Most of it was retrieved with the help of firefighters and passersby. Some of it was salvaged and sold at discount prices, Vicky Schoppert said.

Schoppert said she couldn't have asked for a better response from the firefighters.

"They actually stayed after the fire was out and finished helping us take the rest of the stuff out," she said.

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