As submitted to Pilot Newspaper by Melanie Rice
Lundrigans Clothing Store is grateful for the outpouring of support regarding the smoke damage to the Walker retail store. They would like to answer questions publicly to help our community understand what is ahead for them. When their neighbor, Portage Brewing, lost their building to fire in January, the wind direction that morning caused smoke and debris from the fire to enter various intakes on top and behind the Lundrigans building, pulling toxins from the smoke into the store. Employees and visitors experienced physical side effects while being in the store following the fire. Lundrigans has remained closed since the fire awaiting instruction from Engineering Systems Inc. (ESi), the firm hired by Lundrigans’ insurance company to analyze the air quality. It was found that toxins were detected inside Lundrigans at a level that requires remediation and restoration of the store and contents. Owner, Nancy Freeman, met with Les MacLeod of A&A Property Restoration last week, who has been contracted by the insurance company to guide Freeman through the work plan put in place by ESi. Also on the job, Jim Moeller of Titan Environmental, who specializes in remediation and restoration of chemically contaminated buildings. Both companies have over 30 years of experience in repairing properties damaged by fire and are well-versed in following protocols put in place by engineering firms such as ESi.
The first step is to remove all the inventory inside the store. This includes clothing, leather goods, bags, shoes, boots, belts, hats, scarves, jewelry, pillows, and blankets. “When you are dealing with this type of contamination… porous items like clothing and rough surfaces, to clean it is extremely difficult. You’re physically limited to cleaning the surface, you can’t get into the pores,” explains Moeller. “This keeps me up at night,” says Freeman, “the thing is, we sell very high-end merchandise. We’ve been in business for 81 years and I am only the third owner, so people look to us for very high-quality. I just can’t sell marginal stuff and I won’t sell stuff that’s been treated. Whatever this is in our clothes, I don’t want it out there, it becomes a liability. And because we have multiple locations, I can’t take the risk that someone would try to return these damaged items at another location.” You probably saw some activity outside of Lundrigans last week and will continue to see this week; Freeman and her staff removing inventory. “It is an emotional and heartbreaking process, having to destroy clothing, knowing it can’t be properly cleaned to be resold or given to those in need,” Ione Eischens, a 21-year Lundrigans staff member explained. City Sanitary has been assisting the process by providing the disposal trucks and will be handling the destruction of the inventory. “It’s the right way to do it,” confirms Moeller, “even if the liability was minimal, all it takes is that one person, and there’s always that one person.” Once the inventory is out of the store, MacLeod, Moeller and their crews will begin the process of removing items inside the store that cannot be properly cleaned. In addition to some of the inside structures, this also includes the staging and merchandising decorations Lundrigans is known for such as antique boxes, crates, artificial greenery, and other props. “That’s 28 years of collecting in there,” laments Freeman, “the inventory is one thing, but it’s hard to let go of our antiques. The sled my brothers and I went sledding on when we were kids is still in our winter window display.” It is the hope of the restoration crew that they can treat and seal some of the more sentimental items so they will be safe to continue being displayed. The remainder of the work protocol from ESi details additional specialized surface cleaning, as well as ductwork and furnace cleaning, which will be done by the certified crew. Any items or structures that will remain in the store will then be additionally treated with a multi-step process. It starts with heating the interior of the store and items to a high temperature and exchanging the air through a series of filters for three days (“bake-out”) followed by an air flushing process of another three days (“flush out”). Once that is complete, surfaces will be sealed.
When the cleaning and remediation process has been completed and the inspection by ESi indicates that the environment is safe for staff and customers, they will begin to rebuild their Walker location. As with any project of this size, it is uncertain the length of time before they can reopen. “We’re all following the proper procedures that are deemed appropriate by the environmental consultants that were hired to handle this specific situation,” explains MacLeod.
Every day Freeman and staff are asked how the community can help. “The compassion and kindness we feel from the community is greatly appreciated and critical during these initial stages. For now, we ask for your patience while the restoration crews are busy on the street and sidewalk in front of our store in the coming weeks. You can also support us by shopping our other locations in Nisswa and Crosslake, they have our new spring inventory! As we progress through the rebuild, there may be additional opportunities to help and we promise to let you know,” replies Freeman.
For updates on their progress, please visit LundrigansClothing.com or follow them on social media.