Lake Chelan Building Supply made most of devastating fire in 2015, now open for business

Chelan store reopened in March

After a year of rebuilding, the Lake Chelan Building Supply in Chelan is open for business.

A Christmas card that features both the staff from Manson and Chelan. Photo by courtesy of Lake Chelan Building Supply.

 

CHELAN - Have you heard the expression, every cloud has a silver lining? Essentially, it means that every bad situation has some good aspect to it, you just have to look for it. 

Although it might not seem like there is a whole lot of positives to take away from the Chelan Complex fire in 2015, that canvassed the Lake Chelan area and destroyed over 50 structures, that is exactly the attitude the employees and management at the Lake Chelan Building Supply have had. 

“It was a difficult couple of weeks and my people were worried, but it did give us an opportunity because we wanted for a long time to do something different with that building,” Owner and General Manager Brett La Mar said. “The insurance company wrote off the whole thing after they came and looked at the smoldering remains, which was good because the expense to rebuild how we wanted would be astronomical. So you have to find positive things about the situation.” 

Being tongue-and-cheek, La Mar commented that it’s not often especially as a business that you are given a blank piece of paper and redesign your building the way you want to. 

“It’s a slightly morbid silver lining, but we have redefined ourselves because of the fire,” La Mar chuckled. 

Overall, the process took 18 months to reconstruct the building, so workers from the Chelan store commuted up to the Manson store until the new building was complete. This ended up being another silver lining though as workers - who don’t normally see each other except on the annual Christmas party - got to work together under one roof. 

La Mar insisted it got everyone to gel together. 

“There was a huge influx to the Manson store, so we brought all the employees up here and brought the shed business up here, it was like having 10 gallons of stuff in a five gallon bag,” La Mar joked. “By it really helped bring everyone closer and it was nice to have people under one roof and operate from one facility. Everyone became friends, and our Manson staff was bummed to see our CHelan folks go back, but we’re hearing so far that they are happy to be back in the new building and we’re happy overall that it is back up and running.” 

For combatting future fires, La Mar said they made a few changes from the old building. 

“We had metal siding on the old building, but now we have a fire hydrant and the area is sprinkled, which was a county requirement, so we are better suited now then we were then,” La Mar indicated. “Although the pumps went down during the fire, the PUD said they have fixed the problem, so we have a much improved fire protection system. Also, the warehouse was wood with metal siding, now it is entirely metal and there is zero landscaping around us that could catch fire.” 

“It has been a wild 38 years and there are some pretty odd things on the horizon, but a lot more folks are spending more time here and there are more locals, so it’s been all good. The rising tide raises all boats,” La Mar said. “I kind of joke about the fact that Lake Chelan is a beauty queen, well, it is a beauty queen that can take a punch, and she still looks shining.” 

The fire in 2015 wasn’t the only weather related issue that LCBS has indured. Back in December 1996, the original facility in Manson was brought down by a massive snowfall, forcing La Mar to then move the shop to the small Chelan facility until the yard in Manson was rebuilt. It opened back up in October 1997, and has grown to nearly three acres of building material, storage and customer parking since. 

The Lake Chelan Building Supply recently opened their shop in Chelan for a soft opening in March and they are planning a grand opening for Friday, May 19. 

“We wanted to take a jog in our shoes before we ran a marathon and see where things are good or need to be tweaked,” La Mar concluded. “So far we just have minor things to adjust so things are good and we’re very happy with it. On a scale of 1-10, we’re a 9.5, and the numbers reflect it as well. In actual transactions, we are up 15 percent over the last two years in that store, so we’re outperforming our old store.” 

 

Zach Johnson can be reached at lcmeditor@gmail.com or (509) 682-2213 

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