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Salvation Army Boutique reopens following roof collapse


MASSENA - The Salvation Army Boutique, 170 Highland Road, Massena, reopened to the public on Monday, exactly one month after a roof collapse forced its closure.

“We’re excited to be open,” Salvation Army Captain Cynthia Crowsen said Monday morning as customers returned to the store for the first time since the beginning of January.

No injuries were reported and no merchandise was damaged when the roof of a garage area collapsed at mid-afternoon on Jan. 3. No merchandise was stored in that area of the store, Capt. Crowsen said.

“It collapsed on Jan. 3 at 3 p.m.,” she said, noting her concern at the time was ensuring customers, employees and volunteers were safely out of the store.

“Initially it was sounding like just ice (falling),” she said, when it was in fact that roof that had fallen in from the weight of heavy ice. “It created a lot of heaviness on the roof.”

Capt. Crowsen commended store manager Darlene Pelkey for safely evacuating the employees, volunteers and shoppers from the store. The store has one full-time and eight part-time employees.

“Darlene did a great job of getting the customers, staff and volunteers out,” she said.

The Massena Volunteer Fire Department, Massena Rescue Squad, Department of Public Works, St. Lawrence gas and Massena Electric all responded to the building, which is owned by James Grow of Massena, who leases a portion of it to The Salvation Army. Following the collapse, Brainard Construction and Riley’s Plumbing were on the scene and were able to drain the lines so there was no flooding. The gas, electric and other essentials were also turned off. The gas line in the building had broken when the roof collapsed.

Now, Capt. Crowsen said, electric and water lines have been moved indoors. A new door leading to from the boutique to the collapsed area has also been installed, with enough security to keep children from opening it, but with enough flexibility to be opened in case of an emergency.

Mr. Grow has been handling all of the work to get the building open again, she said.

“He’s working with us, keeping us up to date. We had to wait until it was deemed structurally safe,” she said.

Store employees were able to return about a week-and-a-half ago to begin the clean-up process, Capt. Crowsen said. Among their efforts were cleaning the floors and shelving and throwing out the limited number of items that were damaged.

“The girls were definitely up to it,” she said.

Now that the doors are open again, she said they’re looking forward to greeting customers once more.

“We miss our customers. We enjoy our regular customers. We’re excited to see them. We appreciate the loyalty they have to the boutique. We had a lot of regulars calling the office and asking when we would be reopening. We didn’t know. We had to make sure everything was cleared up,” Capt. Crowsen said. “We’re just excited to be open. We’re part of the community. The money raised goes back to the community.”

They weren’t able to raise that money while the store was closed. It came at a time when she said many people were cleaning out their closets to replace older items with things they had received for Christmas, and many times those older items would be suitable for sale at the boutique.

“For us, the biggest thing is we average $800 a day. Many days we bring in much more than that. Right after New Year’s is a big time for us. We did lose quite a bit of revenue. If we don’t have revenue, we can’t put it back into the community. It stays here in Massena and the surrounding communities (serviced by the local Salvation Army),” she said.

The loss of income limited their ability to help out individuals in need of assistance, according to the captain.

“We want to be able to help. With not as much income you can’t help as much. We didn’t turn people away, but we did a little more tightening of our belts,” she said.

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