Fire gutted Eden’s iconic takeaway store Pickin Chicken on Monday evening, but its owners say it will rise from the ashes.
Terry-Anne Jarvis and Tracey Hayes are struggling to come to terms with the loss of a business they acquired just seven weeks ago.
The two single mothers had stocked the store for the school holidays and had almost finished refurbishing.
Tracey, a seamstress with a bridal shop in Pambula, has also lost antique furniture which was moved into an upstairs lounge the day before.
“Tracey and I are really devastated, we’ve just taken the business over,” Terry-Anne said while at the site on Tuesday morning.
“We’ve sunk everything we’ve had into it. We’re two single parents and we bought the business so we could have a job and give the kids a job as well.
“Now it’s all out the window.”
Her son Nathan and four employees were working in the shop at the time while Terry-Anne and Tracey attended a Food Safety Supervisor (FSS) Course at Bega TAFE.
Four customers were in the store and photographs of the flames taken on mobile phones moved across the internet so quickly that people in other states and countries knew of the fire before many Eden residents.
“I got the call coming out of Bega and that was so heart wrenching because we weren’t there, but we had booked in to do the food safety course months ago,” Terry-Anne said.
The fire began in one of three 100 litre deep dryers at about 6pm on Monday night and Nathan’s attempts to put it out with a fire extinguisher and then a fire blanket were unsuccessful.
Con and Yanni Castrissios and Chris Cedar dashed in from Eden IGA and spent another two extinguishers on the blaze.
Chris even rushed to the rear of the building to warn an unsuspecting neighbour of the fire.
“We told the kids it’s no-one’s fault, they did everything they could,” Terry-Anne said.
“We’re thankful for everyone who was around, from the bottom of our hearts, and we’re so thankful none of our kids got hurt.”
The women bought the business from former owners Stan and Michelle Dobrogosz, who had it for 12 years. Tracey and Terry-Anne had spent about an additional $20,000 on refurbishment and new stainless steel appliances.
The fire followed a vandal attack last Sunday during which windows were broken.
“We got over that hurdle,” Terry-Anne said.
She had a message for her customers, friends and the authorities that responded and continue to offer support.
“Thank the whole lot of them for me, (incident controller) Zlatco Nemec in particular and tell them as soon as we can we’ll get it up and going again,” she said.
“I’m a Jarvis, and I’m a local and there’s no way we won’t get up again.”