Some people may not understand how deeply rooted survival attitude is here at Wazoo. This is our story of spontaneous combustion, perseverance, and rebirth.
Over the first full year of work with a focus on Wazoo it was obvious that the company had potential. It was time to build it into the business it deserved to be. We searched for months to find an affordable location that could meet our needs of air conditioned office space with warehouse and shop areas for manufacturing. On April 17th, 2014 we moved Wazoo from my garage into it's own facility.
Not even 4 months later...
The night of August 7, 2014 a camera battery charger burst into flames spreading fiery destruction through our facility.
The fire damage was substantial. Even though the flames didn't burn the place to the ground, the intense heat and smoke melted nearly everything we owned.
We arrived to a smoke saturated disaster zone and needless to say this brought our business to a screeching, smoldering halt.
As hard as it may be to believe, this photo is not staged. This is an assortment of our bracelets that were on top of a plastic paper organizer. The organizer melted but the bracelets were still in tact, surgical tubing and all.
Ceiling tiles fell like molten lava from the sky blanketing the carpets, desks, and even the toilet.
The soot from the fire saturated EVERYTHING. Take a look at the water line and you'll see what I mean.
There were casualties, including my beer koozie. A little extra crispy but it still held my beer! The safety glasses in the shop didn't melt, but were a little too smoke stained for proper use.
This Adventure was a little worse for wear. The compass capsule started to melt, bulging the paracord out the side and created a bubble in the compass itself. Note, however, that the compass is still filled with kerosene and still pointing North!
Let's chalk that up as a win.
In true survival spirit, Dustin and I accepted what happened, kept a positive mental attitude, and immediately started taking action to better our situation.
Demolition was powered by friends, family, and lots of beer! The goal was to prevent any further damage from smoke and water damage until we could establish our rebuild plan.
Demolition progressed smoothly, but of course every good story needs some conflict and a villain. For this story, let's just call him "H".
H was the owner of our rented facility at the time of the fire. H was an old crotchety businessman that loved dealing in cash. Who knows how many millions of tax dollars he had evaded in his time but now we were stuck dealing with him. To put it politely we would have been better off negotiating with a 3 year-old.
For those of you unfamiliar with rental laws, the owner of the facility is responsible for any repair that is not considered "negligence" of the occupant. Since this was an exploding camera charger, there was no negligence involved as concluded by the fire departments investigation report. Negligence would have been if we plugged in a bomb on a timer and forgot we had it plugged in. But since battery chargers are designed to charge, not explode, there's no way we could have predicted this.
When we approached H to get his insurance working on the repairs he assured us it was our responsibility, regardless of how many times we showed him his own lease agreement that says otherwise. We even got a lawyer to look over the document and provide a written confirmation that we were in the right to expect him to pay for the repairs, to which he replied "I've never heard of this guy, why should I believe anything he says?"
Our options at that point became:
A) Sue this ignorant prick for as much as we can - This would take months to years and most of our existing funds to pursue. In the end it would be a very good feeling to shove it back in his face, but would require putting Wazoo on hold for that whole timeframe.
B) Move out, relocate, and leave him to deal with his own problems - Great option, but no other local facilities were available nearby. We had been looking for almost a year before we found this spot, and we'd only been there for 4 months before the fire.
C) Rebuild and get back to our business at Wazoo - This would take at least a month and a half but we could pick up right where we left off but would still require about $10,000 in repair costs.
What would you do?
We decided to keep our focus on our company. We were passionate about what we do and knew we had a good product that could make a difference. We set aside any petty grievances with the owner and got to work.
It took us about a month of negotiation with H to convince him to simply pay for materials and we would do all the labor ourselves (except for the smoke restoration and wiring that would be done by professionals). Mind you the entire place had to be rewired because none of it was up to code in the first place.
We opted to plan for the future and tear down the dividing wall in our 2-Office building to make one large open space.
Once demolition was completed, the smoke restoration company came in to coat all remaining surfaces with a sealant and it was off to rebuilding.
Ceilings and insulation were first.
Drywall was next.
Paint and ceiling tiles.
We opted to upgrade from carpet to laminate floors.
We started seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.
Time for trim pieces.
We designed custom supports for our desks to match the new trim and get as much use as we can out of the small space we had.
As you can see we made it a point to take care of our customers as soon as possible. We were shipping out product before we even had all the desks installed.
Desks fully installed and production flowing again.
The fire inspired art on our labels and packaging that got smoked in the fire.
And just as the Phoenix is reborn from the ashes...
It was a chance for a new start where we didn't know we needed one. This was the physical proof that we can overcome any obstacles in our path and Wazoo as a company will not only survive, but thrive. The look and feel of the brand new office revitalized us and we were back with a vengeance.
We don't look back, we keep moving forward