Alex Conrad continues to re-live the events of June 6, a Monday morning that saw his business literally go up in flames.
“I still think about it in my dreams,” said Conrad, owner of Vasari Plaster & Stucco, based in Santa Barbara, Calif. The company manufactures a variety of stucco and plaster materials for interior and exterior application, and markets the products locally and nationally.
Kristen Gowdy/Noozhawk photo
|Alex Conrad stands outside the relocated Vasari Plaster & Stucco business in Santa Barbara, Calif.|
Little more than month after fire destroyed his production, warehouse and retail site, Conrad is back in business—and deeply thankful about what could have been worse.
“One of the most striking things for me, what it really made me realize, is that I really love my customers,” Conrad told Durability + Design. “Business is better than before,” he marvels. “I’m not sure if it’s the publicity or what.”
It was business as usual that fateful morning, when Conrad noticed smoke in the warehouse.
“I smelled some smoke in back, and started walking toward it. I saw it was in the bathroom, and started fighting the fire” using a hose. But it was a hopeless cause as the blaze quickly raged out of control. By the time firefighters arrived, all was lost.
“Luckily none of it was flammable, in terms of materials,” he said. Later, fire department personnel told him the shape of the warehouse building—a Quonset hut design—helped accelerate the fire.
“It went so fast because of the circular nature of the building,” he said. “The air rotates like a tornado and burns everything right away.” The intense heat of the blaze melted the building’s metal framework and shell.
The cause remains undetermined, though an electrical short is suspected. The building dated back to the 1940s.
Conrad says he was fortunate to come away with minor burns, and also figures he was lucky to find a new location just a few blocks away. He reopened for business about a week ago, and is able to offer the company’s range of plaster and stucco products despite the “primitive” status of production. He’s slowly piecing together the machinery needed to restore the operation to its pre-fire level.
“But having a fire makes you build a bit better and wiser,” he says.
Vasari’s rise from the ashes of the fire is also the subject of a news story in the local Santa Barbara online publication NOOZHAWK; see Vasari Plaster & Stucco Back in Business.
Conrad says Vasari has fashioned a successful niche in the stucco and plaster marketplace by offering economical versions of “natural” products that reproduce pricey European formulas. He says he spent considerable time in Europe and became familiar with the materials while there.
The company’s products include Marmarino and Veneziano plaster, stucco, and lime wash. More information: www.vasariplaster.com.