The two-year anniversary of owning the store was just around the corner - eight days to be exact. Promotions, prizes and a getaway was in the works. What better way for the owners of the Edmund Rd Four Square to celebrate the milestone than competitions with the community? But the celebrations were put on hold last Tuesday when firefighters battled a fire at the popular community hub which will now be shut for the next few months.
It was going to be celebrating a major milestone today but the doors of the popular Edmund Rd Four Square will remain closed after a fire caused extensive damage to the store.
The store is owned by married couple Clare and Richard Gallagher and today is their two-year anniversary of owning the store - a milestone they will spend cleaning soot rather than handing out prizes like they planned.
A fire broke out in a switchboard at the Four Square on August 27 and firefighters were called at 3.08pm.
Fire and Emergency Rotorua assistant area manager Hamish Smith confirmed the fire was an electrical fire but said the cause was still being investigated.
It was the store's busiest time on the busiest day of the week when the alarm sounded.
"I'd like to say I was cool, calm and collected - but I wasn't," Clare Gallagher said.
She ran downstairs when the alarm sounded and realised it was not a drill when she smelled the smoke and saw the panic of staff.
"It's real, get everyone out," ran through her mind.
The couple were both needed treatment for smoke inhalation - and were the only people in the store affected.
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The building was damaged by smoke and will be closed for up to three months.
"This is everything," she said.
"We could have bought a house last year but instead we bought new shelves," Clare Gallagher said.
The couple's love for their business shows.
"Four Square Clare" is the name doting customers gave her.
The store was a finalist in multiple categories in the 2018 Rotorua Business Awards including Excellence in the Retail Industry, the Social Licence Business Award and Employee of the Year.
Employee Daniel Ward won the employee of the year title at the awards.
"We don't just see our customers as customers, we know their names, their kids' names, a bit about what's going on in their world," Clare Gallagher said.
"Our store is, what we believe to be, the heart of our little community ... it's how we feed our kids and everyone else's that works with us."
The store donated its safe perishable stock to the community with permission from the insurance company.
But 75 per cent of the stock was deemed unsalvagable and had gone to the distribution centre.
The rest of the stock sat on the dark shelves and needed to be reviewed by insurance.
Twenty-six employees have been coming in to help with the cleanup and will still get paid for a certain period of time.
They would all have work when the doors reopened.
The insurance company will take over from there and electricians, plumbers and builders will be brought in.
The store will be commercially cleaned before the new stock is brought in and the doors open again.
"The shining new penny," which will look slightly different to what it looked like before.
Gallagher said the business was "100 per cent committed to reopening".
Employee Yvette Earnest still showed up to the closed store to help where she could and said it was "hard to watch" the fire destroy the store.
Earnest said she spent the first night worrying about herself and the owners.
Former business operator Karen Huston, who still owns the building, said it was "heartbreaking" to see the "beautiful store" the way it was.
She said they had been at the store helping clean up and sorting out insurance and they were thankful no one was hurt.
"[It's a] big blow for the team but they are amazing and have great community support. So lovely to see so many of our original team still there."
As for the two-year celebration prizes? They will be repurposed for the reopening celebration.
- Do not overload power points and multi-boxes with double adapters. Only use one appliance per power point.
- If concerned about the safety of electric blankets, heaters, irons or toasters, have them checked by an electrician. Avoid buying second-hand appliances. If you do, ensure they are certified as safe.
- Appliance cords should be in good condition and not frayed.
- Don't put extension cords under carpets or mats or use when they are tightly coiled.
- Turn off and, where practical, unplug appliances when not in use. Do not leave televisions on standby mode.
- Ensure light bulbs are the appropriate wattage for the light fixtures.
- Regularly clean electrical appliances.
- Ensure fans, heaters, televisions, clothes dryers and other electrical equipment are in well-ventilated areas.