Down But Not Out is the sign that is draped across the entrance to local furniture store the Dane Decor. On June 3 around 1 a.m., Downingtown firefighters, who were returning back to the firehouse located adjacent to the Dane Decor Scandinavian furniture store, heard a loud crash and saw a bright light. After staying much of the night to combat the flames, firefighters concluded that it was a bolt of lighting that caused the devastating fire.
"According to the firefighters, the heat of the fire was about 1400 degrees Fahrenheit," said Dane Decor co- owner Carl Hamilton "they could tell the intensity of the heat by the way certain metals melted."
"Everything in the store was lost," said co-owner Jessie Hamilton. "The showroom, intellectual properties, photo's collected over the years, every idea, concept, and sample we ever came up with are all lost."
"Just like any fire, you can't replace the little things," said Carl Hamilton.
However, the fire did not damage the warehouse that is located directly across the street that serves as the distribution center for all three Dane Decor stores.
"We are so fortunate that the warehouse was left untouched," said Jessie Hamilton. "Because it has allowed us to continue to do business with our customers like nothing has happened."
Gloria Hamilton opened the Dane Decor 33 years ago on November 3, 1973 in the old Central Presbyterian Church. Mrs. Hamilton, a long time Downingtown resident, undertook the challenge of opening up her own business, while raising eight children at the same time. All eight Hamilton children attended Downingtown High school.
"People would ask my mother why she was choosing to open up a Scandinavian furniture store, while she had eight kids to raise," said Jessie Hamilton. "She would laugh and say 'I am sick of making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches'."
Even though Mrs. Hamilton passed away six years ago, her children who in turn operate the store have carried on the traditions she established. All eight of the Hamilton children own a portion of the Dane Decor Corporation by serving as the company's largest shareholders. The primary shareholders are Mrs. Hamilton's sons, Hank (James Henry), Carl, Jessie, and Drew Hamilton, who also serve by operating all aspects of the store including designing, marketing, customer service, distribution and shipping, and sales.
"Over time we expanded from the Downingtown location to three stores total," said Carl Hamilton.
"But the Downingtown store features the largest of the Dane Decor's showrooms," said Jessie Hamilton.
Drew Hamilton holds a design degree from the Rhode Island School of Art and Design, however, all the Hamilton's contribute by brainstorming and designing concepts for furniture designers all over the world.
"Designers will call us and ask us for our ideas," said Jessie Hamilton. "And we will pitch concepts to them that we think as a producer would be good for the consumer."
"Our mission is not to sell cheaply made furniture. Our mission is to make furniture that is better, so the customer can have it forever." said Jessie Hamilton.
"That is why all of our furniture has a 25 year warranty, and it forces us to buy better quality material for our products," said Carl Hamilton.
The building itself dates back to 1863 and still possess some of the original stain glass windows from when the church occupied the space.
"You have to understand that these stain glass windows were from the time when President Lincoln was in office," said Carl Hamilton. "So they have a significant value, not only financially but culturally to the community as well."
The Downingtown Fire department was able to save all but one of the grand stain glass windows that take up the entire side of the store. Plans are in effect to restore and replace the damage that was done to the windows.
When asked how they feel about the fire's devastation to the store, Carl Hamilton said, "Without adversity you would be stale."
"Right now it is the hardest yet most exhilarating time in Dane Decor's history," said Jessie Hamilton. "This is a great opportunity to start fresh."
"I am the most proud of the Dane Decor's employees, because this period of time has been really hard on them. Some of our employees have been with us for over 30 years." said Jessie Hamilton. "There ability to cope, deal with adversity and look ahead to the future has been really remarkable."
The owners have very big plans for the new Dane Decor showroom. The reconstruction will include 26 foot high ceilings, a 26 foot high wall of glass in the front entrance, a completely handicapped accessible showroom with elevators and ramps, a state of the art sound system, and new lighting designed specifically for the Dane Decor's Scandinavian /modern furniture designs. The Hamilton's are being advised that the store's reconstruction should be finished by Christmas time. According to both Jessie and Carl, the grand opening is going to be a huge event.
"We want to throw a party for the town," said Jessie Hamilton. "The citizens have been really supportive, no one has complained about the noise from the reconstruction and we have had letters of support from around the world. The neighbor's and everyone else have been very sympathetic."
One of the Dane Decor's best customers, Joe Jeantet who is president of the Danish Brotherhood, will be bringing his seaworthy Viking Ship and a crew of costumed Vikings to assist with the re-grand opening celebration. Special invited guest are Prince Hendrick and Queen Margrethe II of Denmark. Both have not yet confirmed their attendance to the event.
"This could be a stressful time," said Jessie Hamilton. "But we are looking forward to the exciting changes."