Rising from the ashes

Moira Baird
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What downtown St. John’s business owners learn from fires

Andrew Corbett was working in his downtown St. John’s shop last August when he heard the distinctive sound of fire engine sirens at about 5 p.m.

Roebothan McKay Marshall suffered a blow June 12 when its law office was destroyed by fire.

Andrew Corbett was working in his downtown St. John’s shop last August when he heard the distinctive sound of fire engine sirens at about 5 p.m.

“It pulled up right in front of us,” said the owner of Maverick Sports Collectibles.

Smoke was coming out of the second floor of the next-door restaurant, and when he checked his own second floor, Corbett saw a bit of smoke coming from the wall.

“It think the worst was the first five minutes out on the sidewalk saying, ‘Like, this can’t be happening again.’”

The first fire in 2004 heavily damaged his half-century-old neighbour, The Sports Shop, and the second blaze last August destroyed his other neighbour, Pasta Plus.

Following the 2009 fire, Corbett was shut down for two months, and for the past 10 months has operated out of a temporary location in the empty Sports Shop site.

“The next two weeks we should be back in, hopefully,” he said, knocking on wood. “Barring anything unforeseen happening.”

Corbett knows all about unforeseen happenings, and has learned a few lessons along the way.

“The bigger problem we’ve run into both times is the city. There’s been times when someone is supposed to show up and they don’t show up.”

“What I would recommend to anybody is … take pictures of the property as it looks right then and there. Do that every year when you renew your insurance, so that if something happens you have something to say, ‘Yes, my house looked like this … before the fire and now it looks like this.’” — Rebecca Rose

Repairs are stopped in their tracks because work can’t resume until a city inspection is completed. As a result, Corbett estimates he has lost about two months in repair time. When it comes to insurance, Corbett recommends business owners know their policy.

He didn’t understand the way the floating insurance coverage for his inventory worked following the first fire — winding up with $80,000 of coverage on $95,000 worth of stock.

“Where my inventory changes over the year, it’s not always the same.”

He was able to buy back some of the inventory that still had value, and sold it at discount.

And while Corbett didn’t lose his computerized inventory records in either fire, he recommends backing up those records and keeping them off-site — just in case.

“It made it a lot easier with the insurance company because they basically took our inventory on the system as opposed to having to lay everything out and have someone go through and count it all.”

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Organizations: Maverick Sports Collectibles.Smoke, The Sports Shop, Google ProLaw

Geographic location: Duckworth Street, Water Street

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  • Craig Lee
    August 08, 2010 - 10:09

    I wish Andrew all the best. I have enjoyed Maverick Sports on my visits home and look forward to finding them again this year