Collateral smoke damage: Goody's closed until March

The January 15 potato chip conflagration at Harris Teeter grabbed headlines and closed the store for one week. Two doors down from the Barracks Road Shopping Center grocery, sits another casualty of the fire: Goody's Family Clothing. Although untouched by flames, the store has been closed for a month and won't reopen until March 6, according to a company spokesman.

"We did have smoke damage," says Pam Williams at Goody's headquarters in Knoxville, Tennessee. "We wanted to make sure no damaged merchandise was left in the store."

A salvage company removed the store's entire inventory. "We took the opportunity to paint the walls and spruce up the store," says Williams.

Between Goody's and Harris Teeter sits Bed, Bath and Beyond, which was closed only the day of the fire. How could it remain unscathed from smoke damage, while the farther-away Goody's had to be emptied?

A Bed, Bath and Beyond spokesman professed that he had no clue about why the store was so fortunate.

Fire Marshall Ben Powell says the fire department pressurized the building by pumping air into it. While he was uncertain about the type of walls separating the three stores, he explains, "If you don't have completely sealed walls, smoke gets in. Partition walls are not as good as fire-rated walls."

A call to the local Goody's turned up the same theory on why Bed, Bath and Beyond did not suffer smoke damage. "Their walls are all to the ceiling," says a person answering the phone at Goody's who declined to give his name. "Ours weren't."

Powell estimates Harris Teeter had around $5,000 in structural damage, and about $1.3 million in contents that went into the dumpster or to salvage.

Goody's had no structural damage, and refuses to say how much the smoke damage cost the company. Most of the store's 15 to 20 employees have continued to work to reopen the 24,000-square-foot facility. According to Williams, 10 percent of the associates opted for a temporary layoff for health or personal reasons, and everyone will be back in the store by Valentine's Day to restock with spring merchandise.

A lot of end-of-season clothing got smoked in the fire. "There's never a good time to have a fire," says Williams. But it could have been worse: How about the busy December retail season?


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