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After devastating fire, Parksville businesses thankful for community support

Uncertainty remains around demolition of rubble
Demolition at Parksville Heritage Centre, which was razed by fire on Nov. 9, 2022, has been halted over asbestos concerns. (Lois Vardy photo)

Business owners affected by the Parksville Heritage Centre fire are thankful for community and patron support as they look to move forward.

Dr. Heather Hagen, co-owner of Heritage Animal Hospital, said her team has been able to secure a new lease and construction will begin soon, at a date to be determined.

“It’s been a rollercoaster, it’s been emotional,” Hagen said. “All things considered, we had a lot of help just picking up the pieces and moving forward, so it’s becoming positive quite quickly.”

Hagen said she and partner Adriane Harper have been able to keep all their staff, who have worked to ensure all the practice management software is cloud-based. The practice has access to all their files.

“All things considered, we’re pretty lucky,” said Hagen. “I’ve never been so happy to live in a small town. The support that we’ve had from our vendors and our clients has just been amazing.”

Dawn Deschamps, co-owner of LaBelle, destroyed in the Nov. 9 fire, as well as Serious Coffee, which continues to operate, said she gets regular customer inquiries about the future of those businesses.

“They just want to know are we going to rebuild,” she said. “What is our plan, when is the building going to get torn down — that’s the big one.”

Deschamps said a lot of customers have said they don’t want to visit, not out of a lack of support, but because of the depressing view outside the windows.

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“Everybody has some sort of memory from there,” she said.

As for LaBelle, a future site is uncertain — so far Deschamps and co-owner Johnathan Pope have not identified anything suitable.

They haven’t received money from insurance yet and there is also a concern the patio may not be available for a while. The patio furniture was melted by the fire and until what remains of the building is torn down, Serious Coffee will not be able to open its patio, Deschamps said.

About half of the coffee shop’s parking space is unavailable now.

“A lot of people don’t even want to come in because they can’t legally turn left into Serious Coffee,” she said. “They have to go around the block and come back out by the visitor centre.”

A call to the building’s management company, Pacific Quorum, was not returned by press time.

Hagen said the vet clinic is working on setting up temporary house call services while they rebuild.

She added they are thankful to other area veterinary practices, who have helped patients get access to care in the meantime.

The night of the fire, there were two cats present in the animal hospital — one was found and put in a carrier by the fire department and is now living with the clinic’s office manager.

The other remains missing and sadly it is thought to have died in the blaze, Hagen said.

Deschamps said she is grateful for people who have been supporting them and sending nice messages.

“We just want to thank them for that.”

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Demolition of fire-damaged buildings at Parksville Heritage Centre at the south end of the city has been halted. (Lois Vardy photo)