Saundra’s Furniture and Design store at 279 South Main in Colville was destroyed by fire on Saturday evening, Feb. 16. The fire was reported at approximately 8 p.m. and spread quickly as Colville Fire Department firefighters tried to contain the blaze. Two buildings directly across the rear alley, which house Stevens County Title Company and Courthouse Annex offices, were not damaged by the fire.
The cause of the fire has not yet been determined but the Colville Police Department and insurance company investigators continue to search for clues in the remains. Rumors of possible arson spread around Colville after the blaze, but investigators have not confirmed that. There have been two other suspicious fires in the Colville area in the last month, one at Davis Auto Rebuild and another at Tiger Trucking.
The owners, Alan and Saundra Wilma, had recently transferred management responsibilities in January to their daughter, Genevieve Wilma. Genevieve said that she had closed the store at 6 p.m. and received a telephone call from her mother about the fire shortly after 8 p.m. Saundra first received word about the fire via a text message from her son in Hawaii who had seen pictures of it on Facebook. She and Alan were returning to Colville after a trip to Spokane. Genevieve said the building was fully engulfed when she arrived at the scene.
Due to the extensive damage and unstable structure, the two-story 25,000-square foot building will not be able to be repaired. The Wilmas hope to be able to rebuild the store soon. The business is insured and, in a television interview, Saundra estimated the value of the building and inventory at nearly $2 million dollars. Alan said they will work with their insurance company to determine the actual value.
Genevieve said the family has already received an offer from the Colville Chamber of Commerce to use part of their facility for temporary office and meeting space. The Chamber has also established a fund to help the 11 displaced employees through this uncertain time and is accepting donations.
“We want to make sure that the people that relied on us will be taken care of,” Alan said of his employees. He explained that insurance will cover salaries for certain key employees that will be needed during this transition period. Other employees will likely qualify for state unemployment insurance compensation.
The Wilmas are now scrambling to reestablish an office and communications with customers.
“We are currently experiencing a sort of malfunction with our phone equipment,” Alan stated half-jokingly. However, he said a telephone line should be forwarded to a new location soon and customers may also use email to contact the owners. They can be reached at 684-4491 or email@example.com.
“We are working to try to rebuild recent transaction records that were destroyed, but we intend to fulfill those orders for our customers,” Alan explained. He is asking that customers be patient and bring receipts for any merchandise that has not been delivered.
However, for some customer orders that had not yet been delivered, the products were destroyed in the fire and the company will work to rectify those situations. Some merchandise was also stored in a off-site warehouse, which was not damaged.
The Wilmas have operated Saundra’s Furniture and Design for nearly 20 years after buying the building and furniture business from John Egger. The building has been a landmark in the community at the intersection of Main and Birch. Alan said at least a portion of the building has been at that location since the early 1900s, being used as a car dealership in the early years.
“The community has been wonderful with their kind words and encouragement,” Alan said gratefully. “We plan to rebuild. This has been a great business for years, we’ve been kind of a mainstay in this town. But this is life and we will deal with it.”
By Jared Arnold, The Independent Staff
In This Photo: Saundra’s Furniture and Design engulfed in flames on Saturday, Feb. 16. Karsyn Pierce photo