Leonard Watson pictured outside his shop.
Like a phoenix from the flames, one Letterkenny business is rising out of the ashes of a devastating fire that almost destroyed their shop.
Watson Menswear on Letterkenny's Upper Main Street was one of two outlets seriously affected when a fire ripped through an underground car park on Rosemount Lane three weeks ago.
Watson's and O'Hehirs Bakery were forced to close as a result of the damage. Many residents of the apartment block above the car park were forced to leave their homes, and many are still seeking new accommodation.
Watson’s Menswear owner, Leonard Watson, said all their clothing stock was destroyed by smoke damage. The interior of the store also had to be ripped out due the heat and smoke damage.
Despite the devastation, the store owner says that with a lot of hard work and support from his customers and the local business community, the staff are are now working around the clock to have the shop reopened for the Halloween holidays.
Leonard explains how the work is progressing: “We are getting on grand. A couple of days after the fire we got the insurance guys in and then we had a plan that the whole place would have to be ripped out because the smoke had got in behind the walls and everything.
“Everything had to come down. Walls had to come down, ceilings had to come down and the floor had to come up. It just had to go back to the bare shell.”
He says all the stock in the shop was too badly damaged to ever go on sale.
“All the stock was gone. It was all smoke damaged and the insurance company just wrote it all off. A salvage guy came and took it all away so we are starting with fresh stock,” he added.
Now they are putting in a huge effort to make sure they don’t miss out on the Halloween holiday trade, plus the lead up to the Christmas period.
Speaking on the level of work activity at the shop Leonard says: “As one crowd leave another arrives. In fairness they have all been very good as they know I’m under pressure to get re-opened. The business community and the customers have been great with offers of help. In the first couple of days after the fire there was a lot of offers of help. Boys were ringing to say they will do painting or ‘I have a van here if you need it'. Two customers even came and offered me money. They came and said 'How are you fixed for money?' It was really heartening to think that people were thinking about how we were affected”.
Despite the shock and upset to his business and livelihood, the well-known businessman remains grateful the fire did not have a higher price for anyone caught up in, or affected, by it.
“I keep saying it: ‘Nobody died either’ and now because you just get stuck in you are not really thinking about it. If everything goes well now we will be opened again at Halloween. That’s the push”.
Two men have been charged and appeared in court in relation to the fire incident.