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The rebuild continues: Business owner looks to recover what was lost

Staff Writer
Herald Democrat
Wendy Acosta, owner of the Desk and Easel, had a co-working space that was located at 319 W. Main.

For some residents and business owners in downtown Denison, the memories of Oct. 9, 2019 stay fresh despite a year passing. On that day, businesses, and homes were destroyed in a massive fire that burned a hole through Main Street, the center and heart of downtown.

Despite the damage, area business owners are looking to move forward despite the losses one year ago.

“It was a big grieving process that we are still going through, but one thing that has never changed is how God has guided and protected and brought the answers when we needed them,” said Wendy Acosta, owner of the Desk and Easel, a co-working space that was located at 319 W. Main.

The blaze occurred in the morning hours of October 9, 2019 when a fire broke out in Luxor Nails & Spa in the 300 block of W. Main Street. The fire would eventually spread and destroy two neighboring buildings, including the home of Desk and Easel and two lofts above it.

Attempts by the Herald Democrat to reach out to the owners of Luxor Nails & Spa for comment were not successful.

Acosta and her husband were not in Denison at the time of the fire, and were instead in Las Vegas for a trade show. At the time, her niece was watching over the property. When the fire broke out, her niece first called to let Acosta know about the fire, but said everything would be fine and damage appeared minimal. From there, Acosta began to see video of the fire via Facebook.

“It all just went downhill from there,” Acosta said. “It was stunning to see all this happening and I felt helpless knowing I could do anything because I was so far away. Even if we had been here, we still would have been helpless because there was nothing we could have done to prevent this from unfolding as it did.”

In the end, Acosta lost the home for her business, her two tenants lost their homes, and Acosta lost over three years of her own artwork that was inside the building.

Acosta said one of the hardest parts of the fire was the fact that her building was not completely burned to the ground. Instead, the fire collapsed the roof, along with a portion of one of the lofts, making the building unsafe to enter. Thus, very little was salvageable.

We could look through the front windows and see what we had built, the art I had done, and some furniture pieces from upstairs, and it was really hard to see those things but not be able to get them,” she said.

While tearing down the building, a heavy equipment operator was able to find several pages of one of the resident’s scrapbooks. The operator was able to use the equipment to gently pick up the small pages and bring them to safety one by one.

“It looked like a gorilla picking up an eyelash,” Acosta said. “They were so compassionate and they realized what they had to do. They did what they could to salvage and rescue what they could.”

Almost immediately after the fire, Acosta said she got support from the Denison community, including a temporary home for her business within a week. Acosta attributed her recovery to the overwhelming support she received from the downtown community.

“That let us get back off the ground take a breath and evaluate what we could do and what we wanted to do,” she said.

Her two tenants were offered lodging in lofts above TRY Incubator. Acosta said Josh Massey, owner of the property, offered the two families rentals in the lofts and matched Acosta’s rate. Since then, one of the tenants has moved to Gateway Village, Acosta said.

One year later, Acosta said she is nearly ready to open up the new location for the Desk and Easel. Fortunately for her, Acosta was sure to insure her business and this has helped her rebuild, albeit in a new location.

“That was key for us, because within the next three weeks we will be opening in a new location in downtown and without that none of this would be possible,” she said.

In April, she purchased a home at 500 W. Woodard and has spent the last several months preparing it for the business. The new location features more space, offices and amenities than her Main Street office had while still providing space for her artwork.

“A year ago, I did not anticipate that this would be the outcome of that fire and how God has turned this devastating event into an absolute blessing beyond what we could have ever thought.”

Acosta said she is unsure what the future will be for the 319 property. She said the owner of Luxor has plans to rebuild, but she is more focused on rebuilding her business elsewhere right now.

“We are very excited for him,” she said. “We would love to rebuild and possibly even live in a loft on Main Street … but right now our focus has been on finding a place for the Desk and Easel.”

The former site of the Desk and Easel was one of the spaces destroyed in the downtown Denison fire on Oct. 9, 2019.