Christine Robitaille of Port Hardy Wine poses with just a few of her customers' carboys full of wine that were spared damage in the fire.

Port Hardy businesses hurt by fire are back in business

Four businesses that were damaged by the Jan. 31 fire at the corner of Market and Gray streets have risen from the ashes and are ensconced in new digs. All four are thankful to family, friends, and the public for their support and patience as they got back into business.

  • Mar. 10, 2011 7:00 a.m.

PORT HARDY – Four businesses that were damaged by the Jan. 31 fire at the corner of Market and Gray streets have risen from the ashes and are ensconced in new digs. All four are thankful to family, friends, and the public for their support and patience as they got back into business.

The Bread Shed

Since the fire, baker Kelly Smyth has moved his business to Providence Place, on the corner of Granville and Rupert. He had only been in business for a few months when the fire put him out on the street.

He said it had been a struggle just to get that first shop going and he was thrilled when they finally opened the doors. He still gets emotional when he talks about all the people that helped him open the old shop on a shoestring budget.

Now, he is just as thankful for all the help he has received to get his new bakery and diner up and running at Providence Place where he serves breakfast and lunch and sells loaves of his home-baked bread.

Speaking about all the people who have helped and supported him, he said, “It’s typical Port Hardy. The folks at Captain Hardy’s, Jeremy and Lata Sandeman, have been super supportive.

“It’s another miracle,” said Smyth. “I have a full kitchen here with two big ovens. Business is picking up. I’m going to have to hire help.”

Hunter’s Barber Shop

Chris Hunter was in the business of cutting hair for nearly eight years at the old place. That barber shop had been in continuous operation at that location for more than 30 years. But he is still easy to find, just across the street from the old location and already doing a brisk business.

“You know what they say,” said Hunter, “people resist change. Still, compared to people in town who have real problems, like serious health problems, the fire was just a series of inconveniences for me.

“The best part of being in a small town – people came up to me and said, ‘what do you need Chris, to get back up and running?’ We did it all with a handshake. Now all the papers are signed, but back then, I had people doing everything for me, insurance, cable, hydro, landlord, everything.”

Taking time out to tell a joke, Hunter said, “to be a successful barber you only need two of the three Cs. The three Cs are quality (cwality), convenience, and conversation. I’m convenient and I like to chat,” he said with a smile.

“Life is going to happen to you no matter what,” said Hunter. “Ninety per cent of it is how you react to life.”

Customer Ray Clair was getting his hair cut during the interview. Hunter says, four generations of the Clair family have their hair cut at his shop.

Grier and Co. Lawyers

Paul Grier relocated his law office to the top end of Market Street next to the old OK Tire building. Grier said he lost expensive equipment such as the photocopier and all the office furniture, but the paper files and his computer were saved. He thanked the Port Hardy fire department for getting the computer out safely.

Grier said that the paper files are going through restoration. “They are cleaning the soot off and hopefully they will get some of the smell out of them,” he said.

The positives that Grier draws from among the ashes are that none of the important documents were destroyed and that his new location is on the ground floor giving clients a level entry.

“I’ve already had a couple of people say, ‘Good, I don’t have to wallk up those stairs any more’.”

Port Hardy Wine Ltd.

Christine Robitaille loves her new location on the east side of Market Street across from the bus depot. She thinks the public will agree. The shop is lighter and brighter than her previous shop.

Robitaille has just received the new liquor license that she had been waiting on for three weeks. Having been in business for just six months before the fire, she kept the doors open but without a license she has been unable to sell any services or kits.

“It’s a small town,” said Robitaille. “My customers have been very understanding. I’m happy to be back in business and looking forward to seeing everyone and thanking them in person for their help and patience.”

Robitaille said she was overwhelmed by the support of customers and friends who, seeing her need, responded instantly to help her move more than 1,000 gallons of her customers’ wine before it chilled and killed the yeast necessary to converting sugar to alcohol.

“Friends, customers, and family all helped to get us set up in the new place,” said Robitaille.

Mars Toys

Marlene Gooding whose Mars Toys business is a fifth storefront in the burned out building had already moved her business out of the building and begun operations from home before the fire. She continues to sell Mars Toys and rent toys for parties from her home in Port Hardy. She invites customers to call her at 250-949-0685.





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