LIMA — The rebuilt S.A.Y. Furniture store is impressive to see. What it came back from might be even more impressive.
The modern-looking storefront is well appointed, with track lighting showing off the best features of the sofas, recliners and bedding in the new building at 3037 Elida Road. The store is packed with merchandise, yet it’s spacious enough to casually browse through the aisles.
It’s especially impressive when you consider what owners Steve and Cheryl Yeager went through to rebuild the store after a devastating electrical fire started around 6:45 p.m. Oct. 30, 2012.
“It’s an amazing transformation from what it looked like the day after the fire until now,” Steve Yeager said at a grand opening celebration Friday with the Lima/Allen County Chamber of Commerce. “When we came in the first time, I just remember the devastation, the smell of wet, burning, smoldering.”
When the fire was out, the couple stopped for a cup of coffee to ponder their future. Before that cup was emptied, they knew what they had to do.
“We talked for a second, and Steve said, ‘Where are we going to open up tomorrow?’” Cheryl Yeager recalled. “All our focus was on re-opening. We’ve been here 35 years. There was no decision.”
Steve Yeager said helping his customers drove the family to bring the store back from the ashes. He was also grateful that the American Township Fire Department responded so quickly, before the fire spread to the warehouse or to destroy orders in the office.
That doesn’t mean it’s been easy. About two months after the fire, the couple began operating the longtime furniture store out of its warehouse. There was some open space in the warehouse anyway, a reminder of the old days when stores had to buy truckloads of furniture before a large company would even consider working with them.
Contractor Doug Simpson, of Constructioneers Inc., came in to help, transforming a corner of the warehouse into store space. After working with local insurance agent Jack Somerville to get everything settled on that end, contractors began working around the existing business on its new, modern home, complete with energy efficient lighting, Lima city water and sprinklers to bring everything to modern codes.
The new building is 13,000 square feet, including a pair of 3,200 square foot shops in front of the new S.A.Y. Plaza. Once Upon a Child opened in one of the rental storefronts last month, with the other currently vacant.
In all, S.A.Y. Furniture has about 12,000 square feet between the warehouse and the new building, roughly what it had before. It’s being used more efficiently now, with more showcase space for its Sealy, Catnapper and England brand products, Cheryl Yeager said.
The driving force remains the same, taking care of customers.
“A lot of our customers seem like family to me,” Steve Yeager said. “We have people who we’ve sold to their kids and now to their grandkids. They made us want to come back.”