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Rebuilding and recovering: Locals helping business victims of North Bend explosion get back on their feet.
Only the view is left at Shelly Gildersleeve’s salon, where she and stylist Michelle Dunbar jointly operated as independent contractors.
Her salon, destroyed in the explosion that shook North Bend awake at about 3:45 a.m. Friday, April 25, had been a great place to work for the past three years, Gildersleeve said.
“It was a beautiful view. I had no reason to leave,” she said. “Now I’ve had a reason to leave.”
Agencies responded to what appeared to be a natural gas explosion on East North Bend Way.
However, no official cause for the incident has been determined yet, said King County Fire Investigator Craig Mullen.
“We’re still working on it. I’ve left it as an undetermined event until all the facts are in,” he said by phone on Monday, May 5, adding that the fire investigation unit has been extremely busy in the past few weeks. “I’m hoping to have some closure by the end of the month.”
Anyone with information about the incident, or who may have been in the area at the time of the blast is encouraged to call the unit’s tip line, at (206) 263-2150.
Salon loses everything
Today, Gildersleeve is operating from Another Hair Place, 113 North Bendigo Boulevard, North Bend. The move was easy in a sense, since she lost everything in the blast and fire that followed, and so had nothing to move. “I didn’t have contents insurance, all I had was liability,” she said.
Friends immediately rallied for Gildersleeve, some giving her gift cards to beauty supply shops to replace the tools and equipment she lost. Others, retired, supplied her with items from their own stashes. “We’ve got wonderful people in the Valley,” Gildersleeve said.
The clients she’s been able to contact have also been supportive, she said. “‘Just let me know where you’re at’ they say, but the hard part is getting that information out to people.”
Immediately after the blast, she said, the phone company transferred the salon phone number to her mobile phone, (425) 888-4211, which Gildersleeve was very grateful for. Howver, since the building was a complete loss, Gildersleeve and Dunbar have decided to part ways, and phone numbers. Gildersleeve intends to stay at Another Hair Place, and use her mobile number while Dunbar plans to set up a shop at the Mount Si Transitional Care Center, where she already volunteers. Dunbar will keep the salon number, (425) 888-4781, which will be transferred from Gildersleeve’s mobile phone in a few days.
The dance must go on
Sarah Kate Goodspeed, Juliana Buyers and Olivia Murphy gaze through the chain link fence at what’s left of their old studio.
“I wish I could get our stuff out,” says Olivia. “They won’t let us back in.”
A week later, cyclone fencing and security guard keep out curious people still drawn the scene of the blast. The dance studio used to be two stories, but the second floor crashed through the first. Somewhere in the rubble are dance mats, chairs, computers, and new dance shoes and tights. The girls spot computers and furniture amid the tangle.
“You could point out a lot of stuff,” says Buyers.
For now, Point Dance is homeless. Owner and director Amy Murphy is trying to find a new permanent home, while classes are being held temporarily at Sallal Grange and the Snoqualmie Y.
“We’ll work it out, one way or another,” she said. “That’s just what we do.”
Murphy, who lives near Mount Si, was woken up with her family by the boom of the explosion. Minutes later, a friend called her to tell her the 76 Station had blown up—which wasn’t true—but had Murphy driving into town to check on her business.
“I could see glass everywhere,” she said. ‘Oh gosh,’ she thought. ‘I don’t have a business anymore.’
Murphy started Point Dance Center in North Bend two years ago. Goodspeed, Buyers and Murphy are among the longest-serving members of the troupe. Dance is their love—“it’s a different way to express yourself,” said Goodspeed.
Teaching many styles of dance—ballet, lyrical, hip-hop, and training a competition team—Murphy had a good deal on a five-year lease. She said she’d put $10,000 into her two-floor space. Point Dance didn’t have insurance.
Seeking a new dance space, ideally in North Bend, Murphy started an online fundraiser on GoGetFunding website (http://gogetfunding.com/project/point-dance-center-explosion-1#/progress_bar) to help her business rebuild. She has raised about $1,400 of a $30,000 goal, with about 100 days to go.
This weekend, Point’s dancers are heading to the “I Love to Dance” competition in Portland. Murphy didn’t hesitate when it came to continuing the trip, despite the explosion. “If you’re going to move forward, you have to keep going,” she said. “Canceling would be making a statement the opposite of what I feel.”
“I still have my team,” said Buyers, “ and I still have dance. I’m just grateful we weren’t in there when it blew up.”
“Everything happens for a reason,” she added.
You can learn more on her Facebook page at www.facebook.com/PointDanceCenter. Or, contact Murphy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Local support for tire store
Using tents and trucks, North Bend’s Les Schwab Tire is doing business as best it can.
While the explosion of the Pizza Place restaurant left the interior of the building relatively unscathed, the exterior was hammered.
“It blew the roof off,” said Les Schwab Assistant Manager Billy Wendling. The blast shifted the roof by four inches, broke a number of trusses, and shifted the HVAC system off its pedestal.
Wendling told the Record Thursday that the business should have tents set up within the week to accommodate cars, as the company repairs the structure.
All of the equipment inside survived, with the exception of some keyboards that debris landed on.
Wendling said that, contrary to rumors he had heard, no vehicles inside the building were badly damaged in the blast. Of the five inside, the worst that happened was a broken mirror.
The business did surprisingly well, considering it was next door to ground zero.
“The papers that we had on our desks were still on our desks,” Wendling said. “It didn’t ‘throw’ air. It just pressurized the windows.” Four windows were left that didn’t blow out.
Store staff are temporarily working at three other Les Schwabs in the region. One technician is on the road daily, doing commercial service calls.
“There’s a lot of semi-trucks doing blowouts,” Wendling said. “We’re still serving those guys.”
Many locals came forward, asking to donate time and equipment, or help in any way they could.
“A lot are worried that the building’s gone and we’re leaving town,” Wendling said. “That’s not true. We’re staying.”
As the company assesses the building and begins to repair the roof and sprinkler system, it will take time to get back to normal.
Repairing the building—“this is our work right now,” Wendling said. “It’s what we’re dealing with.
“It’s great to know we have people that support us,” he added.
76 station reopens
The 76 station at 520 East North Bend Way is in pretty good shape, for being in an explosion a week earlier.
By Friday morning, May 2, the station was open for business and pumping gas -- something that owner Manoj Dipankar had been hoping for by the weekend.
“I think we should be open pretty soon,” he said in a phone call early last week. “The city has to give us a clean bill of health. Whatever they told us to do, we are doing.”
Repairs to the roof, punctured by debris from the blast, were one of the top priorities for the repair crew, which started preliminary work late on the day of the blast. Inside, workers built a temporary wall to separate the damaged part of the store from the rest of the building, and cleaned up the floor, littered with fallen shelves and products.
Dipankar’s station was effectively shut down by the April 25 explosion at the former Pizza Place building next door, and despite its quick recovery, it sustained considerable damage, he said.
Holes in the roof and the damage to the front of the building seemed to be the most significant problems. The pumps, shut down immediately after the blast, seemed to be fine, too.
Dipankar couldn’t estimate the cost of the incident just yet, but said his insurance company, Liberty Mutual, was already responding. His costs include the wages for his staff of seven full- and part-time workers, despite the station’s being closed.
“They are on the payroll but they don’t have much work to do right now,” he sighed. “Not too many people are working right now, but they will be paid… as long as I can. They are all great staff, and I want to keep them.”
A front street view of the destroyed restaurant building. Below, the fence view from the reopened 76 station.
An office chair stands out amid the rubble at the 500 block of East North Bend Way.
Olivia Murphy, a dancer at Point Dance Center, practices a competition routine at their temporary rehearsal room at Sallal Grange. The dance center is seeking a new home.