Authorities told Fanning and Morris that a woman had driven by the store and noticed that something didn’t look right about the storefront. There was glass on the sidewalk and things inside looked out of order. About the same time a Lebanon Police officer was driving in the same location and the unidentified woman flagged him down. The officer, Eric Grey, noticed the fire within the interior of the store and called for help.
“We didn’t know who the lady was that saw it, and if she hadn’t done anything, there’s no telling what it would have been like,” Morris said.
Fanning and Morris said four fire engines responded to the call, and they commended the Fire and Police Departments for the work they did in extinguishing the flames that night.
The vandals had broken in and were reportedly looking to steal money from the cash register. Fanning said there was very little money in the register. Fanning said the authorities suspected the criminals turned their attention elsewhere, particularly a laptop connecting to their monogramming machine.
“We had just cleaned everything to take pictures to put up on the Internet for a website,” Fanning said.
Lebanon Fire Inspector Pat O’Brian said the criminals broke in and set several fires inside the building in addition to ransacking the contents within the store. The fires were set in a stairwell leading to the store’s second floor, in an empty box on the ground floor and a display of T-shirts on the ground floor.
The T-shirts caught fire quickly, and Fanning said they thought the criminals fled the store without stealing the laptop or anything else because they panicked when seeing the flames spreading.
“They got a couple of prints off the laptop and are waiting for that information to come back,” Fanning said.
The investigation extends beyond local authorities as O’Brian said the State Fire Marshal’s Office is now looking into the case. Fanning and Morris were hopeful the State’s involvement would help speed up the investigation.
“It’s probably in the beginning stages with their investigation,” O’Brian said about the State Fire Marshal’s Office. “It’s still under investigation.”
Luckily, the majority of the contents, such as fabrics, files, sewing machines and more, were not burned by the fire. Fanning, Morris and many friends and family moved everything that could be saved next door.
Fanning and Morris focused on the positive help they received after the fire and the exceptional job the Fire and Police Departments did while on the scene New Year’s Eve.
“The Fire Department did good work not coming in and drowning everything,” Fanning laughed. The firefighters worked carefully to extinguish the flames without getting computers and other machinery wet, as well as soaking fabrics.
“Really, it did more smoke and soot damage than anything else,” Morris said.
Fanning and a few customers in the store on Tuesday remarked that they couldn’t even smell smoke on the fabric that had been in the store during the fire. Fanning said Sparkle Dry Cleaners helped them by washing their quilts for free to recover what material they can. Fanning hasn’t been able to do any quilt work since the fire because the quilt machine is too large to remove from their original store, which is under repair.
“Our landlord has been really nice, he gave us a month’s rent to get by,” Fanning said. Fanning and Morris said their landlord, Ronny Holland, had insurance on the building, but they didn’t have any insurance on the contents within the store.
“We were at a point where we had to make a decision if we were going to pay rent or insurance,” Fanning said. They chose the rent and said the economy has really hit hard, but they’ve been fortunate to keep their business open.
Fanning expected it to be two more weeks before they could move next door back into their original store location. At the moment, repairs are under way to repaint the walls and clean up smoke damage as well as repairing the broken front glass door and upstairs window.
“It’s been unreal the people that have come out to help,” Morris said. “Everybody, family, friends and customers have all helped out.”
Staff Writer Patrick Hall may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.