Wednesday, October 9, 2013
Fire ravaged and destroyed seven buildings two weeks ago. On Friday, a contractor hired by the City of Georgetown demolished the last of the buildings lost in the 700 block of Front Street.
Tee Miller and his wife Rhodes had planned to switch spots between Goudelock & Co. and Black Mingo Outfitters.
Now, the couple has reopened Black Mingo Outfitters. Rhodes Miller said one of the women who worked at Goudelock & Co. plans to open another store, and the couple will rebuild.
There's been a lot of speculation since the fire about the old buildings and what protectionsá might have helped them.
Tee Miller said his dad, T. Goudy Miller, had put up a wall along the back deck of Black Mingo Outfitters.
Even though the wind was blowing past their store towards the Town Clock, the wall held the flames at bay long enough for some 200 firefighters to save the Black Mingo store and keep it from spreading further.
The roofing on that building is in pretty good shape, he said.
Firefighters ran hoses through the front and back doors to help fight the fire that raged along Front Street and Harborwalk.
Further along the 700 block, the S.C. Maritime Museum suffered some damage. Built about 1916, it was for many years known as “The New Store.” Because it had a sprinkler system and firewall, though, its damage was much less than the other buildings.
For Goudelock & Co., though, its building couldn't be salvaged.
“It's completely collapsed inside,” he told the Georgetown Times on Friday. “The fašade is not historic.
“We're going to do everything we can to have a historic look.”
There's been a lot of public comment about the bricks, with some people saying they would like to have some bricks as souvenirs.
But, Miller and others have pointed out, those bricks are private property and they belong to the building owners.
The Millers plan to use as many of the bricks as they can when they rebuild their store, and he said many of the other property owners plan to do the same.
Miller was state director for the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development office for a number of years.
Standing across from Goudelock & Co. with blue hard hat in hand, he's a man who wears many hats.
Not only does his family own and operate two buildings and businesses on Front Street, they also lease space to tenants. They are city residents, living in the Maryville section of the City.
And, Tee Miller is director of Planning and Economic Development for the city.
With all those hats he's focused on much of the life of the city.
“Once we get things safe and get some normalcy back, and get some common plans, we will work to build back.”
“We'd love to do all we can to make it look like it did 100 years ago.”
But, he continues, “The costs are enormous.”
While there's no set figures yet, Miller said it could easily cost twice as much to build new structures as the insurance that each property owner had.
He noted that people like Jeanette Ard and John Rodgers lost their homes as well as their businesses.
“It's really emotional for them.”
Ard is a member of City Council. She's owned Colonial Floral Fascinations since 1989 and lived on the second floor of her building at 725 Front Street.
Rodgers — an artist — lived above Zest restaurant.
“From my city position, the Fire Relief Fund can help look out” for Ard and Rodgers and the others who've lost both their homes and their businesses, or the 130 workers who've lost their jobs.
“The emerging businesses need some money to come back.”
The Bridge2Bridge run, the Wooden Boat Show and the Taste of Georgetown Festival are all coming up in the next month. Those events and the visitors they bring to the city will be crucial in the fourth quarter of the year, Miller said.
For many small businesses, the fall of the year can be even more important than the summer months.
Over the weekend and the coming days, Miller continued, the city will work to make Front Street safe.
That's largely been done with the demolition this past week of what was left of Goudelock & Co., Buzz's Roost, Zest, Doodlebug's, Harborwalk Books and Colonial Floral. Limpin' Jane's, where the fire apparently started on that fateful Wednesday two weeks ago, was knocked down the next day.
Late Friday afternoon, the fencing that kept cars from using Front Street and pedestrians wondering if they could walk through the area was moved. It's now along the rubble that was a series of proud shops.
The rest of the restaurants, stores and businesses along Front Street — including in the 700 block — remain open and ready to serve customers.
Figuratively wearing several of his hats, Miller said it's important for the city and the businesses to coordinate their efforts and work together “so we don't tie things up for years.”
“We have to work together. It's in the best interests of the city as well as the property owners.”
As for the businesses near where the fire was, Miller said “I would think the restaurants have done well.”
“I would hope people will come here. They will want to see what's happening, and see us working together and off each other on business.”
He noted that people may come to the city for the history, do some shopping, and enjoy meals in one of the restaurants.
With Goudelock & Co. being torn down Friday, and the others demolished the day before, Miller noted “It's a sad day. This is the heart of the Historic District, our downtown.
“It's not there.”