I don’t know which to tell you first – the good news or the bad news. We have some of each.
The Lawrence community continues to inspire us. The outpouring of support from businesses and families has been truly amazing. And city officials continue to work with us, offering nothing but compassionate guidance and support. We got our occupancy permit for our temporary location and in no time at all the place was ready to go. The last two days have seen serious progress. Our utilities are on, Niehoff came out and repaired the air conditioner, a local electrician added necessary outlets and light switches, Lindy Spring Water loaned us a water machine to make aquarium water, Stoneback Appliance dropped off a free mini fridge, Rueschoff installed the alarm system and city officials just inspected the premises so we can open right away. Lawrence SignUp is making us a banner to use as a temporary sign.
Last night the phone rang for the first time and employees raced to answer it, nearly knocking it off the wall. The person calling was from out of town and didn’t even know about the fire. That was not only humbling and endearing, it reminded us that even though it feels like our world crumbled, life goes on and so shall we. The temp location is a tiny space but it will work for now. Because the temporary PW is so small (25% of the real PW) the staff nicknamed it “Pet World Express” or, better yet, “Pdub Express” and I must admit, it’s pretty catchy. The space reminds me of our early days in the 1980s. Maybe Tim will grow his hair back out into a mullet just for old time’s sake.
Our shelving order has yet to arrive…none of it. So that makes it impossible to completely set up shop. Our landlord loaned us some old shelving yesterday and we are using pickup trucks to load and unload it, piecing together as much as possible, but we won’t be able to fully stock our shelves for another week or two because, well, we don’t have enough shelves to stock. We also have yet to find a suitable counter but we’re still looking. For now a pop up table will do the trick.
It’s been three weeks since the fire and it feels like three months. We miss each other and we miss you. At least we can open the doors now and begin to get you what you need if you don’t mind the ongoing mess. As of right now, we can make any aquarium water you want and can take your orders for whatever products you need most to make sure they get added to our new stock lists. We won’t have room for everything we normally carry but we’ll do our best. Later this week we’ll have crickets and should have frozen feeders. Next week we’ll fill your orders, add more feeders, and stock more merchandise (assuming we find more shelving). Live feeder rodents should be available in a couple weeks. (Until then you can get live feeders at Safari Pets in Topeka, Miles of Exotics in north KC, or Olathe Pets.) As soon as we can secure more shelving we will stock it for you. Stop by anytime and we’ll be happy to answer your questions and help you in any way we can. We’re now in Suite 12, across the parking lot, between Bikram Yoga and the Lawrence Laundromat. Our hours are the same as usual, 10am-8pm Monday through Saturday, 11am-6pm on Sunday.
Being closed is never good for any business and especially dangerous for pet stores whose customers can’t wait even if they wanted to. Most of our customers shop on a three week rotation so as of right now we’ve lost all of you at least once, some of you more than once. The longer we are closed the less likely we’ll be able to recover so time is of the essence. On Monday, three investigative teams worked very hard to narrow down very specific details regarding the fire. We had many officials on site all day and it was supposed to be a one day insurance investigation but by 5pm the insurance investigators suspected they wouldn’t finish on time. They stayed on the scene a few more hours, making good progress and trying to finish, but by 8pm they realized they could not all completely agree on everything and decided they need more time. Unfortunately they will not be able to resume their on-site investigation until July 7 but they did assure us they believe they’ll finish by July 8 so the backroom part of the building should be released by July 9. Demo and reconstruction can begin after that as soon as a permit is pulled. The three week delay is frustrating for everyone but we will focus our efforts on the temporary location to get that up to speed as soon as possible.
Cleanup is almost complete. Except for the restricted backroom area, EmCon, Topeka, has cleared out nearly all of the contents from inside the building. Some of you may remember Tim’s brother, Cale, and how he took charge the day of the fire to coordinate rescue assistance outside. Cale and their brother, Tony, have a construction company with their father, Carl, and sister, Jill. On Monday they all teamed up with their brother-in-law, Mike, and brought a crew from Topeka to tackle the clean out. There are many Emersons, several in the construction business, and most of them are loud and kind of full of it on the outside. Tim, his dad, three brothers, and brother-in-law like to tease and joke around, seeming like they are rarely serious. But in times of crisis, as any of us Emerson wives will tell you, these boys really come together to make things happen. We had many bids for cleanout with varying approaches and, quite honestly, we weren’t sure what to do. But then Cale, Tony, and Mike told me they wanted to do it, to help their brother and his family, and Tim was visibly relieved at the suggestion. I closed my eyes and gave thanks they could handle it, knowing their vested interested would move things along quickly. Those boys have been driving me crazy for 30 years but when Tim is in trouble there is no one I’d rather see surrounding him. We always say Tim’s mama must have beat those kids just enough but not too much. They’re a good family.
As you can imagine, most of the PW employees struggle to even look at the building, let alone help clear it out. Watching the cleanout has been difficult. Pet World operates on a very tight budget so we are all careful not to waste or break anything. Watching those machines push out the contents and load them into dump trucks like garbage filled us with sorrow. And trying to comprehend what this loss means to Tim is unbearable for all of us. But seeing Tim working through it all, with his family by his side, supporting him and lifting his spirits, has provided something beautiful to witness amidst a very ugly scene. For that I am truly grateful.
So what’s next? We’ll continue to work quickly toward a fully functioning store, offering all your pet needs, and hope to once again provide you with the service you’ve come to enjoy. We hope to get confirmation soon that our building can be ready by September or October. If it turns out the building will not be ready until much later, we’ll consider upgrading the fire prevention system in this or another temporary location to something more appropriate for long term and then bring in live pets. Until then, we hope to see you at Pdub Express sometime soon!