Olivia Loncki was in her Pure Barre studio in Greenville yesterday at lunchtime when the room suddenly started to fill with smoke.
Loncki saw smoke coming into in the studio.
An electrical fire had started on Wednesday during the heavy storm around noon in the attic of the dental office next door. The source of the fire was directly next to Pure Barre, which is located on the second floor of the Greenville Center.
As she made her way to the front door, which Loncki had locked, she saw Dr. Michael Matthias, D.M.D. and other members of his dental staff who had been knocking on the door to make sure no one was inside. She could not hear their attempts due to the music playing as she was teaching a virtual class to her members.
Yesterday’s fire was first spotted by Dr. Matthias who “smelled an electrical smell” and a patient who has his own handyman business, who quickly put out the flames with a fire extinguisher.
“I saw smoke and I heard popping. So I turned off the breaker box in our practice, and we lifted a ceiling tile in the lab of our office and saw flames,” said Matthias. That’s when he and his patient swung into action.
At the time, there were two employees and one patient besides Matthias inside his “Your Dentistry Today” practice.
Matthias still called 911 because of the significant and continuous smoke. Smoke detectors triggered water sprinkler systems that filled the dental office and two retail offices below, including The Pink Turtle and the new Fresh Faced Skin Care, each of which filled with three to four inches of “sooty water,” according to remediation experts who were cleaning up today.
The Pink Turtle sits directly below Matthias’ dental office, and co-owners Christine Kendle and Carey Pauley say their women’s boutique took the brunt of the damage. “Water was everywhere It was pouring into the store in many places. It came in through all of our ceiling, from one end of it to the other,” said Kendle.
“We have experienced an extensive loss. The light fixtures, the flooring, of course, all of the clothes — the whole store, potentially, will have to be redone,” said Pauley.
Pink Turtle moved into this space in March of 2019, virtually doubling their old space at the same shopping center. The beautiful new store featured contemporary light fixtures, wood flooring, comfy chairs and wood accents throughout. The Pink Turtle, which first opened in 2010, anticipated celebrating their 10th anniversary in March — and then COVID struck.
“We had two great days. Our customers were so happy to be in the store and out shopping. And we’re so happy to see them,” said Kendle.
Pauley and Kendle say it could be months before the store is ready to reopen. But they do have two other stores — one in Rehoboth Beach and one in Glen Mills, which will reopen for the first time tomorrow.
“Luckily we have dispersed our inventory amongst three stores so we still have plenty of inventory in Glen Mills, Rehoboth and on our website,” said Pauley.
The Greenville Pure Barre did not sustain any significant water damage. But it did sustain significant smoke damage. The smell today was pretty overwhelming. Loncki says she will reopen when the scent is gone, which could take some time and professional expertise.
”I never knew how detrimental smoke damage could be,” said Loncki, who also had a successful reopening on Tuesday. Today she had to move most things out of her studio, and there’s not telling how long it will take to get the smoke scent out.
“I had to do so much work during the pandemic to get the state reopened,” said Matthias, referring to his responsibilities to set post-Covid guidelines as president of the Academy of General Dentistry. “Today was my first day that we that we had a full schedule of hygiene patients.”
On the bright side, Matthias and his office manager spent time over the “COVID break” installing a new, secure cloud-based phone system, which allowed them to call patients to cancel their appointments this week from their cell phones.
Fresh Faces Skin Care had been outfitted with new flooring, cabinetry and a fresh coat of wall paint just last week in preparation for their grand opening later this month. The flooring today was ripped up, air blowers were turned on and new ceiling tiles will be installed.
Yves Delorme and Edward Jones Investments, also in that wing of the mixed-use shopping center, were not damaged.
The Pink Turtle still intends to celebrate it’s 10th anniversary in Greenville — hopefully sometime this year. Kendle quipped, “We certainly hope so. That will be our grand reopening take two!”