Port au Port hardware store will rebuild after fire, says owner

The owner of a decades-old Port au Port business destroyed in a fire on Monday says the store will be rebuilt.

"You're not going to have the squeaks in the floor that we had, or the part of the floor that heaved and rolled, but the business will continue and hopefully thrive." Bill Abbott said Wednesday.

Abbott, who is also chief of the Port au Port volunteer fire department, was in Ontario when he heard the firefighter paging service message on his cell phone about the alarm at his own building.

Hoping it was a false alarm, he contacted one of the people who has keys to the building and was told the windows were black.

"At that point, I knew we were in trouble. Then the panic started to set in," he told the Corner Brook Morning Show.

In the next few hours, a huge fire consumed the wooden building that had been built in the late 1940s or early 1950s, part of a family firm that started on the Port Au Port Peninsula in the 1880s.

"Something that's been part of you as long as you've been alive. Everything rushes to your head," said Abbott.

Sizing up the loss

Abbott got back from Ontario around 3 a.m. Tuesday. It was dark when he drove past the property where security people were on site.

"At that point, I did not have the courage to actually stop and look around," he said. "It was a discouraging experience, I'll give you that."

Despite the loss, Abbott and Haliburton is still in business. A warehouse across the street, containing building supplies, was spared and the company will be setting up a temporary trailer to use as an office.

"There was no loss of business ... we're going to rebuild," Abbott said.

He conceded that a new building won't have the same character as the structure they just lost. But he is happy that no one was hurt, and that surrounding buildings weren't damaged.

Abbott doubts that anything will be salvageable from the company's safe, which was warped and twisted. But he's looking at the positive side of things — and said he will keep his staff.

"They still work for me. They're an amazing group of people who will endure, " he said. "Once we get situated early next week, they'll all be back at work. No layoffs."