BUOYED BY SUPPORT
BUSINESS operators in New Norfolk are still doing it tough following the recent fire in the town’s main street and none more so than Direct Furniture’s Lester Blackwell.
Mrblackwell owns the three buildings adjoining the now vacant corner of High and Burnett streets — the Furniture Direct building, another which is occupied by Keith Russell’s New Norfolk Meat Supply, and the former Camelot fashion shop, which had closed a few weeks before the fire.
Although the total cost has yet to be determined, the business suffered at least $70,000 worth of damage from the fire.
A day before the fire, Mr Blackwell and his staff had been renovating the former Camelot shop, as he was planning to turn the space into a clearance outlet.
‘‘It has been a very difficult time to say the least,’’ Mr Blackwell said.
‘‘We have stock insurance, but no interruption for business insurance. But people have been very supportive.
‘‘We were lucky we were able to reopen the temporary shop on High St after just three days.
‘‘The main store on Burnett St has been closed for weeks [but] we are in the final stages of refitting it out.’’
The temporary shop had been stocked full of new Sleepeasy stock which was to be sold at a discounted rate for a limited time, but it all sustained either smoke or water damage from the fire.
Mr Blackwell said Sleepeasy had generously allowed him to continue the exclusive sale on beds for an extended period of time and there were still bargains to be had.
‘‘It has hit us hard. I think everyone in the CBD has done it tough,’’ he said.
‘‘It’s still hard to believe it has all happened.
‘‘The community is strong and we will rise above this. We just really need the people of the Derwent Valley to keep visiting the CBD and support locally-owned businesses.’’
Mr Blackwell said the butcher’s shop was forced to close while the Lee building was demolished and continues to suffer from lost foot traffic to and from Banjo’s bakery.
POSITIVE: Furniture Direct owner Lester Blackwell is determined to get back to business after fire devastated several of his properties in New Norfolk last month. Picture: ROGER LOVELL