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Community Supports Cole Hardware After Fire

ColeHardware_1On the afternoon of Saturday, June 18, Adrianna Karp was the manager on duty at the Cole Hardware Mission Street store, working on a few different tasks, when the smell of smoke caught her attention.

“In our stores, we use radio headsets to communicate with each other,” Karp says. “I asked, ‘Do you smell smoke?’ We started checking in with each other over our headsets to see who was smelling smoke in what areas of the store, and physically checking all areas so we could give the all-clear.”

At first, she thought it might have just been someone smoking a cigarette or the smell of a car wafting in, but then a crew member climbed the fire escape and saw flames in the apartment building above the store.

“Things moved very quickly—I was simultaneously using my cell phone to call 911, yelling over in-store music to ask customers to exit the store and using my radio headset to give instructions to employees,” Karp says.

While the initial evacuation of the store was confusing to customers since they saw no flames, Karp says they were able to move quickly and efficiently to make sure all customers and employees were out of the building. All the employees went to the store’s designated emergency evacuation meeting place, which is a large parking lot nearby.

Around nine business suffered fire or water damage during the fire, and about 57 residents were displaced, according to an article by CBS Local San Francisco Bay.

After Fire, Business is Picking Up the Pieces

ColeHardware_3In a Facebook post the store shared following the aftermath of the fire, the store gave thanks to the 150 firefighters on site during the fire. The fire is still being investigated by officials, Karp says.

To try to minimize the disruption for the employees from the Mission Street location, Karp says they have spread them out to the other stores.

“While our employees are appreciative, it is still somewhat of a traumatic time for people,” she says. “All of us who were at the store that day lost personal items such as bicycles, cell phones, purses and wallets, so we will be helping our employees with funds to replace what they lost.”

Although Karp says its too soon to predict the future of the store, she says they plan to do everything they can to return at least to the neighborhood, if not the exact location.

Karp advises other retailers to make sure they back up their server, security camera footage or any other related information to the cloud so they won’t lose it if there’s a disaster, like a fire.

“If you have a catastrophe hit your business, hire a public adjuster to represent your interests with the insurancecompany,” Karp adds. “Insurance policies can be hundreds of pages long, mostly filled with exclusions. It is important to have a professional on your side who knows how to sift through these policies and fully understands the contents. They can be an advocate for your settlement.”

In the wake of the fire, Karp says the neighborhood, loyal customers and those from the hardware industry have all provided words of support and reached out to give a helping hand.

“The response from the community has been amazing—there have been so many wonderful comments on Facebook, and we’ve received even more emails,” Karp says. “We have also been so grateful to all of the folks within the Ace Hardware organization across the country who have been reaching out. Each and every message of kind words means so much to us.”

On top of comforting words, Karp says people have offered to help in a variety of ways.

“What has blown me away are the offers of support in ways that go so far above and beyond what you would expect,” Karp says. “We have community members and employees wanting to get their hands dirty and help us sift through the mess and physically rebuild [unfortunately, that wouldn’t be safe], fellow retailers offering space for storage, offers for temporary employment from folks who weren’t sure whether we’d be able to keep everyone employed, the neighborhood wanting to raise money for us and more. In such a hard time, all of these heartfelt message of support have really been bolstering my spirits and giving me strength.”

To see a full gallery of photos of the fire taken by Rick Karp, president of Cole Hardware, click here.

About Renee Changnon

Renee Changnon is the retail outreach coordinator for NRHA. She meets with retailers in their stores and at industry events and introduces them to the services NRHA provides. Renee previously worked as a member of the NRHA communications team. She earned a degree in visual journalism from Illinois State University, where she served as the features editor for the school newspaper. After college, she implemented marketing and promotions initiatives at Jimmy John’s franchise locations across the country. She enjoys exploring books with her book club, Netflix marathons and hosting goat yoga at her apartment complex. Renee Changnon 317-275-9442 rchangnon@nrha.org

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