NEW GARDEN ― From ashes, rebirth.
This spring, Kennett Copy & More owners Rhonda Thorpe and Lori Amway are set to reopen their store to the public after suffering a devastating fire nearly a year ago on May 12, 2020.
“We lost all our copy equipment, computers,” said Amway on Thursday.
“There was nothing left after the fire," Amway said.
She said they've had to purchase for the business all new computers, copiers and shelving.
“We are in the process of restocking the store back,” Amway said.
And as the business works to bring in new merchandise into the store to replace everything destroyed by the fire, there have also been supply chain logistical issues given the global pandemic which impacted manufacturing companies from Wuhan to West Chester.
Kennett Copy & More specializes in professional copy print work, is home to a score of office supplies, and is well-known in the community for its rare collection of fine art supplies.
On May 7, the Daily Local News talked to Amway regarding the impact of the shutdown as ordered by Gov. Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania. At first, Kennett Copy was forced to close its doors on March 13, 2020, however the state soon recognized it as an essential business, allowing on-site work again to resume March 20, 2020.
Last May, “It has definitely taken a drastic hit on us,” Amway said of the shutdown. “We’re close to 70 percent down in our business.”
Concurrently last year, Kennett Copy had just opened a brand new art classroom, expanding its business venue, last February. “Any income for that new investment is gone,” Amway said on May 7, 2020. “It’s been a pretty big hardship.”
She added, “You expand with the hopes of being able to fill the classroom. We had a whole bunch of artists from the West Coast scheduled to come in and do demonstrations and classes.” Students were signed up, too, through May. In March, everything canceled.
Then the fire hit.
“We had just left the building,” Amway said of the fire on May 12.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation as an exact cause has yet-to-be been determined by Chester County officials.
“It is appearing it was a PECO-related issue,” Amway said, “in that they sent a surge of some sort into the building.” She learned of fire from her brother, who is a firefighter in West Chester.
Amway said her hope is to reopen the business on May 11 this year, on the eve of the one-year anniversary of the fire.
Still, “no one really understood the devastation that happened here,” Amway reflected. “It was well past the point of buckets and brooms."
Amway said in addition to reopening the business, an important goal moving ahead is simply returning to offering local customers the services they need.
She said upon reopening, Kennett Copy & More “most definitely” reopen the new classroom.
Amway said it is much easier for arts and instructions to work together in a classroom setting rather than via looking through a computer monitor.
The community rallied to support the locally owned business, which serves the Greater Kennett Square Region in Southeastern Chester County, from providing high-quality printing work for architects to realtors.
Amway lauded the local community for supporting Kennett Copy during the last year.
And directly after the fire, “the community support was unbelievable,” Amway said. “People wanted to know what they could do to help.”
And during a year in which so many businesses closed due to the “unprecedented” shutdown in wake of the pandemic crisis, one business is turning the corner this spring with hope.
For this small business, during an incredible year full of challenges already in which 50 percent of owners closed down their enterprises for good across the nation, that support made a difference.
Amway said good can come from tragedy, no matter how bad it seems.
She said Kennett Copy & More thanks to the entire community for everyone’s support.