It’s been almost eight months since a fire in Huntington Plaza caused small businesses, including Sassafras, Gifts by the Green and Huntington Chiropractic, to close up shop.
When the fire gutted Huntington’s Sassafras Restaurant, it also caused heavy smoke damage to Gifts by the Green, ruining most of the store’s inventory, the owners said. This week, Gifts by the Green is finally reopening with all new inventory and a new look.
“It was very difficult, but it was an excellent opportunity as well,” owner Ian McClenaghan said.
After the fire hit, the owners never imagined it would be such a long process to get the business going again.
“When it happened, we thought we’d be back open in 30 days,” owner Ruth McClenaghan said.
The couple soon learned that for insurance purposes they had to count every piece of inventory, from the greeting cards to each piece of jewelry. Most of it couldn’t be salvaged because it was too damaged by smoke. A lot of remodeling work had to be done as well, and new furniture had to be purchased.
When they realized what an undertaking it would be, Ian McClenaghan wondered if it was worth all the work.
“As a business owner you have to re-evaluate,” he said. “You have to ask yourself, Do we want to do this?”
“You had to ask that, but I knew we’d be back,” his wife said. “This is my love.”
The owners were able to re-design the store so the aisles are more spacious, and they have all the Valentine’s Day gifts out. They had hoped to open in December, before Christmas, but didn’t want to rush it. And once the tragedy in Newtown struck, they didn’t have the heart to open the store for Christmas. A store like Gifts by the Green does a good bulk of its business around the holidays, so losing that time was difficult.
Sassafras Diner has yet to reopen, and there has been a lack of foot traffic because of it. Ian McClenaghan said the diner owner plans to reopen in a couple of months.
Huntington Chiropractic, between Sassafras and Gifts by the Green, hasn’t reopened.
“It’s been so nice to see people come by and tell us they have driven by every couple of days, just to see if we’re open yet,” Ruth McClenaghan said.
The owners are hoping their old customers return and new ones visit, despite the store being closed for so long. They said small businesses like theirs adds character to Shelton.
“I miss everyone,” she said. “We’re like a family.”
Gifts by the Green is open seven days a week and typically late on holidays. Normal hours are Monday through Saturday 9 to 6 and Sunday 9 to 2.