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WATCH NOW: The Fur Shack returning with downtown location after mall fire

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The Fur Shack owners Tricia Homan, left, and Deb Newill talk about the do-it-yourself pet wash's new location at 453 N. Main St.

On the morning of Father's Day, Tricia Homan was getting ready for the day and to open up the Fur Shack.

Along with Deb Newill, Homan had opened the do-it-yourself pet wash at 1900 E. Military Ave. less than three weeks prior.

After a Father's Day breakfast, Homan's father-in-law was on his way home and decided to follow a firetruck rushing by his neighborhood.

A few minutes later, Homan's sister-in-law called her with a message she thought was a joke at first: "The store's on fire."

"Then she got pretty serious and used a good choice of words and I knew she wasn't joking," Homan said. "And I just told my family, I was like, ‘My job's on fire,' and I left in my pajamas."

Driving as fast as she could to the strip mall, Homan called her friend and co-owner with the news.

"I just remember I had just pulled up into my driveway at home and I was in my truck," Newill said. "And Tricia called me and just simply said, 'The shop is on fire,' and I sat there stunned."

On June 20, a fire at the Parkview Center, which started at a daycare center, ended up destroying several businesses, including the Fur Shack.

But four months later, the business has risen from the ashes with its soft opening on Thursday at its new location at 453 N. Main St.

"We were only open for 20 days, but yet we're coming back even more new and improved than we could’ve hoped for," Newill said.

The Fur Shack's new downtown location is currently serving dog treats and plans to open its washing bays next month, along with new amenities and services.

"It's almost like the worst thing that could've happened to business owners and our business plan has actually brought us an even bigger and better opportunity to grow right off the bat," Newill said.

Losing everything

When Newill and Homan arrived at the scene of the fire, the two had to watch from a parking lot across the street as 40 firefighters combated the blaze.

"I don't know if we even spoke," Newill said. "I think we just looked at each other and then just proceeded to sit there and watch the smoke with tears coming down our faces."

The owners' friends and family started showing up to the scene. As she watched the fire, Newill said she contemplated going home, as she felt helpless.

"Then it occurred to me that this was our little thing, our inspiration, and if this was the end of it, we needed to see it through, we needed to be there until the absolute end," she said. "And we literally did not leave that day until the firetrucks were pulling out."

About a month after the fire, the two then had to find what remaining items they could from the wreckage.

"We drug our feet a little bit because that's just like, you've got to get the dumpster and go back in once again and relive it all again," Homan said.

Along with members of her family, Homan went through the rubble and decided what could be kept and thrown away.

"To go in, and just everything you had just placed there 20 days ago, and now you're throwing it away," she said. "I had great family support, because it was a tough day."

While Newill said she was at the scene of the cleanup for moral support, she said it was too difficult for her to go through everything.

"I was not strong enough emotionally like Tricia was that day, and she really had to trudge through," she said. "I am grateful that she did a lot of that without me that day."

But in that moment, Newill said she was able to fully realize her relationship with Homan, as one's strength could help with the other's weakness.

"So when the opportunity came to reopen, I didn't even hesitate when she asked, 'Hey, do you want to reopen? We might have a shot here,'" Newill said. "I didn't even hesitate, because I knew we had the right mix of personalities and talents and strengths."

Making a comeback

Homan said she knew from the day of the fire that the Fur Shack would make a return.

"In our hearts, we knew we wanted to do it again," she said. "We just didn't know what the plan was going to be and what the future would look like."

From there, the two would purchase pieces of potential furniture for a new location and discuss what they had learned during their time in business.

"We didn't want it to die," Homan said. "We would speak weekly and knew that we were moving forward."

On Aug. 13, Newill and Homan had a fundraiser for the reopening of the Fur Shack at Tin Lizzy Tavern. The event featured live music, silent auctions and a food truck.

"The support we had was amazing, from the community, from Tin Lizzy," Homan said. "They went above and beyond with their staff and the help and the recommendations."

Although the two had never had an event like this one, Newill said it was affirmation that they were on the right track.

"We knew we needed to keep moving forward with our decision, that this type of business needs to happen, that we were on the right path to do this together," she said. "All of the friends that were there for that very first open house, all of the community members that did nothing but cheer us on were present that night."

Shortly after the fundraiser, a new location was found to house the Fur Shack. However, Newill said it didn't end up working out.

"There were other things in these last few months that could've brought us to question, 'Are we supposed to do this? Should we just let things lie?'" she said. "But it was just the way we were able to stick together and hang in there that we knew that we needed to reopen."

Newill and Homan were also part of the John C. Fremont Days parade, and with the help of some friends, were able to have the Fur Shack be a part of it.

"People on the streets that day for the parade were clapping for us and were happy to see us, that we didn't just throw in the towel," Homan said. "So we've just been trying to keep it fresh on people's minds that we didn't go away, that we are here."

Home sweet home

About two weeks ago, Newill received an urgent call from Homan asking her to meet her downtown.

"She had not even explained on the phone why I was meeting her down here," Newill said. "I walked in and I was like, 'Oh my God, we need to put the dog wash down here.'"

"It was beautiful, Homan added. "I don't think we were even 5 feet in the door, and we were like, 'We'll take it.'"

The Fur Shack's new home is featured on the corner of North Main and East Fifth streets, right across from the 505 Building.

Immediately after finding the new building, Newill said all of the doubts since the day of the fire completely disappeared.

"I took three steps in here and I knew where the tubs were going, I knew where this counter was going," she said. "It just all fell together, and it was like that last confirmation that, 'Yes, this is happening. This is where you're meant to be.'"

The Fur Shack's new location also features the return of its bakery items, with a brand-new counter that is able to refrigerate the treats. It also includes various items for purchase, as the old location had as well.

The old location's three bays for washing pets were rescued from the aftermath of the fire and will be available at the new building.

Additionally, the new building now features separate drying stations and a walk-in shower, which Newill said was a request from some of the Fur Shack's customers.

"We would not have been able to offer that at the original spot we had, and we get to offer that this time," Newill said. "So not only do we get our second chance, we have a second chance to provide some upgraded things to our customers already."

The Fur Shack will also be able to provide professional grooming services in a back section of the building.

"In the last shop, there was not a day that went by that we weren't getting asked, 'Hey, can you guys trim nails?' 'Hey, can you guys groom this?' Newill said. "And now we're going to be able to say yes to that."

With the building's downtown location, the owners are excited with the amount of foot traffic the Fur Shack will see.

"We've already had some of the other people in the shops and people that're shopping, they'll stop by and just even wave," Newill said. "I know that most of these apartments are pet-friendly, so this could not be more ideal."

Looking to the future

The Fur Shack had its soft opening this week in time for Halloween Hysteria, in which Newill and Homan got to hand out candy to trick-or-treaters and meet new potential customers.

The owners plan on adding a wall between the waiting area and washing bays, as well as setting up the walk-in shower and drying bays and adding more retail items to the shop, including gift cards.

"I don't want to speak for the subcontractors, but my guess is with as enthusiastic about how fast they want us to be able to open, I would hope even right around Thanksgiving at the latest that we will be open for dog washes and things like that," Newill said.

Until then, the Fur Shack will be open for about two to three hours every Saturday morning.

"We've also got a soft plan for being able to offer pet dinners around Thanksgiving and Christmas," Newill said. "So depending on whatever the dog wash timeline is, we will have some things that we're going to be able to offer down here that we weren't able to offer before."

Even with the near-total loss of the business, Newill said she's not only gotten closer with Homan, but with the store's vendors, which include other local women and a high-school boy who makes treats for the bakery.

"It's been great that this was supposed to be something that we could put our talents and personalities through, but it also attracted other people who were like-minded like us," she said. "And it kind of created this little opportunity for a family."

With the community standing next to her at the scene of the fire, the fundraiser, the parade and now the new location, Newill said she appreciated Fremont's support during the loss of the original Fur Shack.

"I think if anything, that has brought me even more pride for the community I live in," she said. "Because it's our next-door neighbors that have these businesses here, and it's renewed my pride and thankfulness for our Fremont community."

Although the last four months have been difficult, Homan said she believes everything happens for a reason and that the Fur Shack is where it needs to be.

"Thank you to everyone who has supported us on this journey," she said, "and we look forward to seeing them all soon."


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