MOUNT VERNON — Though the smell of smoke lingered in the air from Monday’s fire at 201 S. Main St., several stores on the north side of downtown were able to open yesterday with some customers venturing in to shop.
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“We had no problems opening,” said Laurel Wagoner, co-owner of Down Home Leather of North Main Street. “None of our merchandise was damaged by the smoke. We’re just fine other than smoke affecting our eyes.”
As winds carried the pungent smoke northward during Monday’s fire, causing eyes to water, many shops kept doors and windows closed. Even so, Tuesday some shops hesitated to let the outside air in with traces of smog in the atmosphere.
“I wanted to open the door and windows but couldn’t with the smell. We are fortunate to be a few blocks away but we were still affected by the smoke,” said Tonia Osborn, owner of Red Z Gallery. “Yesterday, we had to leave early because of it. Today we had business as usual with a few customers that came in but they only stayed a few minutes before the smoke residue bothered them and they left.”
Osborn said they will have to do basic cleaning to the glass of the paintings due to the smoke but other than that, everything’s fine.
First-Knox National Bank’s main office kept its doors and windows closed with the only exception to the northside entrance of the building facing Public Square.
“We are trying to limit the amount of smoke being pulled into the building each time the door opens,” said Vicki Sant, executive vice president. “With a building this tall, each time the door opens a vacuum is created that pulls the smoke in.”
Since the fire, the facility hasn’t been able to utilize its heating, ventilating, and air conditioning system, and has brought in Belfor, a property restoration company, to filter air.
“It’s been warm in here and we’ve had a lot of regular fans running, and of course we haven’t been able to open the windows because of the smoke blowing through the air,” said Sant. “And with these conditions we’ve sent employees home who have respiratory problems.”
The bank closed on Monday but reopened Tuesday afternoon with limited staff. As for the rest of the week, hours of operation may be limited.
“We relocated some of the [operations] on the top floors of our building, where it is warmer, to other locations,” said Sant. “We’ve also moved some of our staff to our branches on Coshocton and Blackjack roads because we knew they were going to be busy at those locations.”
Sant hopes next week the facility will be back to regular business hours and operations.
Jeremy Kester, owner of Kester Imagery and Event Planning, said his business was able to open as usual though the effect of the smoke on the paintings and other merchandise has not been assessed. “It’s difficult to tell how severe the odor is on the inside until the smell outside subsides,” said Kester.
“For all the smoke that was involved I thought the fire was well maintained,” said Brenda Dush, owner of Dezign 1. “I closed early [Monday] because the smoke had bothered me, but I opened [Tuesday]. The smoke wasn’t too bad today.”
The smoke may have affected some businesses, the bigger effect many shop owners expressed was their concern and sympathy for the business at 201 S. Main St.
“What happen to that business saddens me, my prayers go out to them,” said Wagoner.