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Fire's collateral damage spreads
Late last year, Victoria Lambert went looking for a spot to take her burgeoning paint mixing business which she'd been running out of her Downtown New Westminster apartment kitchen.
She and her brother and business partner Bradford fell in love with a spot on Front Street and opened Fat Paint in March. Now they're looking again, but it isn't because they're no longer infatuated with their choice. Far from it. It's because Fat Paint was part of the collateral damage caused by last Thursday morning's fire that claimed three heritage buildings on Columbia, McKenzie and Front streets.
Lambert had a bird's-eye view of the blaze from her 17th floor abode. At first her building wasn't affected since it started in the E.L. Lewis building. But as the morning progressed so did her concern. She could tell the water damage was going to be bad.
"In the beginning we were obviously upset and concerned watching the fire grow, knowing we would be faced with smoke and water damage knowing that could be the least of our worries," said Lambert as she hunted down other places to set up shop.
Since opening, the business had taken off. Retail outlets were interested in their innovative process, especially after they'd switched from using her Kitchen Aid mixer in her apartment to an industrial mixer in the new place. They were supplying 22 retailers throughout North America with a list of another 10 to be brought on line in the next few months.
"We were just growing leaps and bounds," said Lambert, who noted they had seven orders on deck when the fire broke out.
They'd also used the Front Street space to set up workshops for the public and the mezzanine became an art gallery.
"The place was so fantastically gorgeous," said Lambert. "It's been very devastating, but also for our neighbours. It's not just been us that has been affected."
Although it was still standing as fire crews cleaned up, it didn't take much for them to realize their building, which also housed Twisted Lime Media, wasn't worth saving. The water damage was just too much. Before tearing it down, fire officials allowed two people to go into the store to salvage what they could. Bradford Lambert and artist friend Robyn Murrell poked around and only managed to find a couple of items and some small stuff worth preserving.
"A lot of what we had we brought into the business, all of our equipment, a lot of our supplies, a lot of our product, it's all gone," said Lambert.
Lambert said the B2B women's business network she and Murrell are part of has been "enormously supportive" and so has the city's bureaucrats and politicians, amongst many others.
"Our retailers have been very patient. We can't lose them so we have to get back to work," said Lambert.
That's why she and her brother are scouring the area for a new space. They want something with at least 800 square feet, easily accessible with lots of water for cleanup.
The circumstances has them considering shifting their focus to strictly paint manufacturing.
"This tragedy is having us have another look at our business plan and how we move forward."
Fat Paint had insurance but Lambert admitted it was hard to say how much of their losses will be covered.