Counting the cost - but victims of fire refuse to be beaten
THE founder of a Leamington art gallery ravaged by fire last Friday says he is sure it will reopen.
But Warwick Studios, like its neighbours in Warwick Street, has been left counting the cost of a fire that burned all afternoon and brought the town centre to a standstill.
Fire spread to Myton Hospice charity shop next door, while smoke sucked into other shops damaged stock and ruined shop fittings.
Nobody was hurt, but by the time it was brought under control, eight fire engines and a Simon snorkel aerial rescue pump had been called in and a road block extended across several streets.
Investigators were on the scene until early the next day, with the fire thought to have been caused by an electrical fault on the ground floor of the gallery.
Smoke finally cleared by 4pm, but firefighters remained at the scene damping down hot spots for several hours.
Peter Sands started the gallery 39 years ago and handed over the business to his son David 15 years ago.
Then fresh from studying product design at Coventry University, talented art student David introduced computers to the shop, which went from strength to strength.
But last Friday’s blaze may be its biggest reversal, destroying stock and leaving nothing of the building at the back.
Despite this, Mr Sands, of Radford Semele, is sure the family business will survive.
He said: “We’ll reopen. That’s definite. For the business this is just a short-term interruption.
“Warwick Studios has seen two recessions. They were very lean times and we had no problems then.”
A Warwickshire charity that cares for people suffering life-limiting illnesses is also among those who will lose out.
Myton Hospice had celebrated the charity’s 20th anniversary at its oldest shop only last week.
Called when fire broke out, the charity’s retail support manager Gary Bradbury thought the fire had spared the shop until he saw firefighters with axes smashing through the door.
He said: “As he smashed the door down the smoke just billowed out of the front of the shop.”
A boarded-up window at the back of the stockroom had caught fire and fallen in. Only the fact that the shop’s manager had shut the door prevented it spreading to the shop floor.
Water from firefighters’ hoses soaked the safe, and Mr Bradbury said he had painstakingly separated and dried out £20 notes.
But the shop, which makes around £10,000 a month for the hospice, has been left without electricity and water. Three weeks’ stock will have to be thrown away and the shop needs extensive cleaning. Now the charity is appealing for landlords to help it open a ‘pop-up shop’ while the premises is cleaned and repaired.
He added: “This is a big job, I’m afraid.”
Jonathan Broom, owner of Barney’s Toy Shop in Park Street, was among many anxious traders who could only watch on Friday.
Along with staff at neighbouring Martanne hairdressers, he had left his premises when smoke was sucked in through extractor fans.
He said: “It came through, literally thick, mustard-coloured smoke that came in and sank immediately to the ground.
“When we went upstairs and looked out of the stock room windows it appeared to be coming from the end of our building and the end of the Wall’s building.”
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Weather for Leamington
Saturday 25 May 2013
Temperature: 5 C to 16 C
Wind Speed: 10 mph
Wind direction: North
Temperature: 7 C to 18 C
Wind Speed: 9 mph
Wind direction: West