Fire-ravaged Little Switzerland store reopens on St. Thomas' Main Street


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ST. THOMAS - Little Switzerland's Main Street store has reopened after a fire that smoldered for almost a day destroyed much of it in April.

Of the St. Thomas-based company's 40 stores in the Caribbean, one of the 10 St. Thomas stores - the one on Main Street - was burned out and waterlogged after a fire caused by an electrical issue swept through its second floor April 28.

"There was an element of 'Should we rebuild?'" Little Switzerland Chief Executive Officer and President Hal Taylor said Thursday. "But, we want to invest in the future. That was a big factor."

Not only was Main Street the location of the original Little Switzerland store - which no longer is around - but Taylor believes local efforts to renovate the downtown area will be successful in coming years.

"Since we opened in December, it's been a great success. More than we expected," said the company's vice president, Adam Leavitt.

The store, which is celebrating its reopening this weekend and hosting an invitation-only event tonight, first reopened its doors Dec. 3. Tonight, they will host Gov. John deJongh, Jr., along with his wife, first lady Cecile deJongh, and a long list of community leaders, partners and clients.

It will also be a celebration of 60 years in business, Taylor said.

"We've received so much support," he said, noting that all levels of employees within the company were involved in the renovation of the Main Street store.

After the fire, which lasted more than 16 hours at the time, the company was forced to remove all of its inventory, some of which was damaged. The fire mainly had stayed in the second floor, though the first floor absorbed much of the smoke.

Additionally, because the fire was on the second floor, firefighters at the time had to extinguish the fire from the ground level, soaking the first floor.

Firefighters feared attacking the fire from the upstairs because the fire might have caused the roof to collapse at the time, Taylor said.

V.I. Fire Service investigators found out later that the fire was the result of an electrical issue, though Taylor did not want to disclose the specific issue.

The losses were in the millions, Taylor said, though insurance covered the bulk of the cost.

"You can't plan for something like this," he said.

However, the store has reopened with a full inventory and a more energy-efficient redesign. Also included are added brand build-outs and an in-store bar for clientele.

- Contact Jenny Kane at 714-9102 or email jkane@dailynews.vi.

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