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Fire damages soapmaker’s house, equipment

December 15, 2017
Toni Milbourne - For the Chronicle , Shepherdstown Chronicle

The Wild Rose Soap Company in Shepherdstown has enjoyed success in providing its wares for local businesses to sell. But all that came to a halt on Dec. 4 as company owner Michelle Kwiatkowski's house caught fire. While the actual burn damage was contained to a small area, the smoke and water damage destroyed much of the family's belongings and the soapmaking equipment that's kept them in business.

"The firemen said we were very lucky," Kwiatkowski said, adding that the fire originated in the water heater of the home, which was on the same floor as the soapmaking equipment. The fire burned extremely hot, according to Kwiatkowski.

"The water heater spewing out water kept flames at bay and the whole place from burning down, but made ton of smoke," she said.

Kwiatkowski said she was almost asleep that evening, with her two young sons in her arms, when she received a message from Crystal at the Vintage Lady asking about a soap order. Then she heard the smoke detector from downstairs.

"If I had been asleep, probably the fire would have been so bad we would have had to jump out the upstairs windows and likely gotten hurt," Kwiatkowski said. "I'm so blessed that Crystal happened to message me at that moment."

The folks at the Vintage Lady are no strangers to the devastation a fire can cause. They lost their shop in the fires in Lower Town Harpers Ferry several years ago and know what it means to wonder about rebuilding.

With that thought in mind, Vintage Lady owner Cindi Dunn immediately put out the call for help. Via a Facebook posting, she wrote, "Michelle has been such an amazing supporter of our local community - and a valued artisan in our shop. Having gone through a fire ourselves, we know that support from friends is so important. So - here is what we are doing. Fortunately, most of the soap that she had made survived - and we picked up our 36 bar order today. For every bar we sell (6.95 each) - we will give ALL the money back to Michelle - and we will MATCH that money. Our goal is to sell all 36 bars which will generate $500! We know we can count on you to purchase soap for Christmas gifts and help this wonderful family!"

In addition to this measure of support, Michelle has established a GoFundMe page to help secure enough funding to get the business up and running again. The link to that page is www.gofundme.com/wild-rose-soap-fire-recovery.

The cost to replace the equipment is approximately $2,000; however, without the ability to make soaps during the busiest time of the year, the family is losing significant income. They've had to cancel their placement in craft shows and have shut down their online store, which brought in significant sales, especially during the holiday season.

"This is our busiest sales month of the entire year," Michelle said. "That's hard, plus - the holidays for our family [and] not knowing where we will be staying for Christmas" The family will be displaced until at least March 2018.

"We are very grateful," Michelle said. She urged those hearing her story to make sure they check the smoke detectors in their homes.

"Check them and make sure you have a carbon monoxide detector as well," she said. "Our things can be replaced, but people cannot. We are shaken up but we are thanking God that we are all safe."

 
 
 

 

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