BUSINESSMAN Gary Shields surveys the damage as the full extent of a devastating fire that ripped through his firm is revealed for the first time.
The blaze at Shields Interiors furniture store in Hartlepool two weeks ago saw £100,000 worth of stock go up in flames and has left major structural damage to the building.
The upstairs of the former showroom in Whitby Street South is now a twisted mass of metal and black debris which previously displayed new bedroom furnishings.
Examining the wreckage, managing director Gary said: “It’s soul destroying.
“It was a perfect showroom. I have lost my tool for selling.
“The upstairs is totally shot and downstairs the displays are all either water damaged or smoke damaged.
“This is the last thing I wanted to happen. Business was going really well.”
But the family business, which employs four staff, is starting to rise from the ashes and is continuing to trade from a workshop and office behind the showroom in Bertha Street.
Gary said: “My main priority at the moment is to look after the customers that we have got and jobs were booked for before the fire happened.
“We are still selling. It’s not pleasant in here but it’s business as usual apart from the fact that we have no showroom.
“It is the same service. We are quite lucky to have been able to move in here.”
As well as the showroom, much of the roof has been destroyed.
Gary reckons it could take up to a year to repair all of the damage.
But he thanked the local community and neighbouring businesses for their help and support since the fire.
He also praised the efforts of the fire service which tackled the massive blaze and is now investigating how it started.
The fire is said to have started in the rear of the second floor at around 9am on Thursday, January 20. Gary tried to tackle the flames himself with a fire extinguisher but the fire was too big.
The showroom was completely renovated in October 2008 and last year the business won the service sector category in the Hartlepool Business Awards.