(By Jonathan Farrell for the Sonoma Sun)
Within weeks of the November fire that destroyed its Riverside Drive warehouse and retail outlet, the Bon Marche thrift shop had relocated down the street and was open for business. But not all the tenants of the ravaged structure, a former Nicholson Turkey Ranch facility at 19445 Riverside, are back on their feet.
“We are happy for Bon Marche that everything for them is going well and they are back in business,” said Andy Smith of Imperial Services. “But for me and the rest of us tenants that were impacted by the fire, it has been a struggle.”
Smith and other shop owners in the rear of the facility have been trying to conduct business without electrical power for nearly five months. Dave Nogue of Mr. Stich tailoring and repair said he has gone through his savings just to try to stay in business. Both he and Smith are willing to endure and “stick it out,” Nogue said, including cutting back their hours to try to stay solvent.
Smith said, “I estimate since the fire, my business is at a loss of about $2,000 a month.” The claim he filed on behalf of Imperial Services only got him “$1,000 so far,” he said. “The insurance company is dragging its feet.”
The payment was barely enough to buy a generator, Smith said. “But I can’t go on like this, full power must be restored.”
Part of the dilemma that he, Nogue and a few others in the complex face is the quandary of “who will pay?” The owner and the manager of the building did not return calls.
Pat Mullin of the Sonoma County Permit, Resource and Management Department, said that a permit, an inspection and a complaint was filed. There has been nothing more since December of 2014. The case is still open.
Mullin said that while there is very little the County of Sonoma can do at this point, “the hazardous electrical issue is a civil concern.”
Fire Marshall Alan Jones told The Sun and said that the cause of the fire was a hot plate in the employee break room of Bon Marche. Investigation took place immediately after the fire was extinguished on November 6. According to the official Fire Investigation Report, “due to extensive damage (to) the buildings wiring, main breakers in the switchboard were in the locked position.”
The official investigation report also said that the building was equipped with any type of fire detection capability. And, while a fire sprinkler riser was found, it was untagged and apparently non-functional.
As for full electricity, Smith said there has been “no official word from anyone really, just vague communications of when the power will be fully restored.”
Nogue told The Sun that he and Smith have been paying a reduced rent amount, but has been given a 30-day notice to vacate. Building manager Michael Rodes did not return calls to confirm or deny.
“I am not going,” Nogue declared
Even with commercial rent given at half, both men think the owner, Santa Rosa architect James McGalligan, should do more to ensure the power is turned back on.
Smith and his wife Amy inherited Imperial Services from her father Gene Marcinkowski when he retired in 2000. “Our family business has been existence since 1975 and after almost 40 years, I don’t want to let it fall apart, especially over something as simple as electricity not being restored.”
Elece Hempel of Petaluma People Services Center said that “many times recourse for commercial tenants is limited because protections upheld by law for residential leases are not there.”
Smith said he heard that rough estimates to have a new electrical system installed was in the range of $14 to $17,000. While up to this point in the lease electrical was included, Smith said he is considering the possibility of taking out a loan to pay for the needed electrical work.