A building in the heart of Kennett Square's historic district sustained substantial damage as its rear wall collapsed on Wednesday night in the midst of a raging thunderstorm.Now, a week later, the business that occupied the building, Fenstermacher Inc. LLC, is up and running having hardly missed a beat.
Emergency responders arrived at the CPA firm in the 115 South Broad Street at about 8 p.m. to find the back of the building completely exposed. The ground in the backyard was covered with bricks and other debris, and the interior of the offices was visible.
Although the weather at the time was severe, with wind, rain, thunder and lightning, a neighbor who spoke on condition of anonymity said the building had been undergoing an expansion and workers had been digging around the foundation during the day. He theorized that the work had weakened that structure.
"I was sitting there on my porch and suddenly I realized, 'There's something wrong here,'" the neighbor said.
Along with the collapse, wires were down in the rear of the property and the electricity was out in adjoining buildings.
There were no injuries associated with the incident.
Contacted late last week, Kennett Square Codes Officer Rusty Drumheller said the building, which is owned by Bill Fenstermacher, will survive the ordeal. In fact, he said, on Wednesday afternoon before the storm the workers realized there was some weakness and had plans to shore it up the next day. But when the storm arrived that night, it apparently put enough stress on the structure to cause the collapse.
Chad Fenstermacher, who is in partnership with his father in the business, said he was out to dinner at the time of the incident and was contacted by phone by several neighbors. He immediately went to the scene and began securing the building and its contents.
In the long night that followed, he said he made sure the building was under constant surveillance, inasmuch as the back offices were exposed. He also contacted his IT providers to reconfigure the computers for remote access from his staff's homes.
By 8 a.m. on Thursday, he said, the company was open for business, albeit from remote locations.
For the time being, business if being carried on by phone and computer from staff residences, but by next week they will move into Franklin Center, the new Genesis building across the street, until repairs and expansion are finished at the original location. He estimated that the work on the damaged building would be complete by next January.
Chad Fenstermacher said the building is mainly supported from the side walls, so rebuilding is not a major concern. However, some instability in areas that were not planned to be part of the expansion will now be included in the project.
"All in all, we're recovering quickly," he said. He added that although the whole back of the building was ripped off, the rain was falling in the opposite direction and did not do much damage to the interior.