Stevenson and Taylor's near 70-year legacy of working with CHB's rural sector was minutes away from being destroyed in a major blaze back in February.
Six months on, general manager Robby Smith says the 1951-founded tractor and rural heavy equipment sales and services business on Takapau Rd in Waipukurau is about to emerge from the fire stronger than ever.
The potentially devastating fire — which started in the engineering workshop and completely gutted the adjacent small engine repairs workshop, destroying a $70,000 plasma cutter machine in the process — had caused a fair amount of disruption to the business. But Mr Smith said it had also prompted some improvements to be made.
"[The fire] has actually had a silver lining.
"We will be at 110 per cent by the time we are back," he said, referring to the changes and layout reconfigurations currently underway at the business because of the blaze on February 16."
Mr Smith said since the fire, the engineering workshop had not only been fully repaired but also extended. Meanwhile, building work has just started to bring the small motors repair workshop – which has been temporarily located in a modified storage shed out the back since the fire – inside the main shopfront.
"We now have more usable space for the engineering workshop and we will have a more user-friendly area for the small engine workshop.
"It will be more accessible for the public – they won't have to stand in a wet and muddy workshop driveway to drop their chainsaw or mower off anymore.
"They can just walk through the front door," Smith said.
The relocation of the small engine workshop inside the main shopfront, due to be finished mid-September, meant the layout of the main retail area of the business would get a long-overdue makeover, he said.
"Our shop layout has looked like this for 11 years. But it will look different in two months.
It's going to look much better," said Mr Smith, who still had vivid memories of the blaze.
"What happened that day, for me, was terrifying. Within three minutes [the fire] was out of control. I will have been here 20 years in December and to see it catch fire, and knowing the people who have been here and the history of the business, it would have been devastating [to lose]" said Smith, who was full of praise for the 30 or so volunteer firefighters who managed to contain the damage and stop the flames from spreading to other parts of the building.
"Within seven or eight minutes they were here. They were awesome," he said.
So too was the response from businesses, contractors and customers, who he said had made a point of continuing to bring their jobs to the business in the immediate aftermath of the fire as a show of support.
"Builders turned up to patch the roof for us. We had sparkies here within an hour, we had plumbers, we had people ringing to offer help with workshop space. With thanks to the community, I think that's what kept us going," he said.
He was also full of praise for the patience of his staff, who he said had been forced to deal with some challenging working conditions amid the disruptions caused by the fire — in particular his two staff from the small engine workshop,
"They've been really patient. They've had to traipse through mud and rain and stones whenever they have had to come inside for a part. They are very much looking forward to their new workshop I have to add.
"But it's full credit to all the staff. They have all had to take the raw end of the stick at times, but each one of them has done really well. And we've gained another two staff [since the fire] because of the workload, so we're getting bigger," Smith said.
The insurance process has been a long process, mostly due to the repairs being done in winter, he said, but he had no complaints with his insurance company.
"They've been great — really helpful."