Velo Brome Back in the Saddle After Devastating Fire
By Manfried H. Starhemberg
On April 22 of 2010, an arsonist set fire to the long established bicycle store Velo Brome on rte. 139 in West Brome. Owner Charles Riordan (51) was sound asleep when the police called. At this moment, a one year long odyssee begun for the much respected businessman, who had built his store over 16 years of hard work to be one of the premier bicycle stores in the Townships.
"When I got there, I tried to save my computer and all the data. I made it upstairs and then the lights went out. At this point I decided that I was more important than my files and got out", recalled Riordan. By sunrise it was clear that the business was a total loss with most of the bicycles scorched, parts burnt and tools melted. All that is left from this mess now is a pile of semi-burnt bikes which hopefully will yield some useable parts for the rebuilding uf used bicycles.
The police immediately called the fire "criminal arson" and one year later, the case file is still open. Interestingly, two days after this fire someone "salted" the local bike paths in the greater Sutton area with tacks which cost more than 350 flat tires. This case is also still open. Unfortunately, in case of arson, the insurance company does not cover the losses of customer bikes. Riordan had thousands of Dollars of repair pending and apart from his own drama, had to inform his customers that their bikes were an uninsured loss. "Some took it well, others not so", tells Riordan. "At least the majority of my clients were covered by their home owner's insurance, but they still had to pay the deductible. Net loss to Charles? "Approximately $ 350,000.- with $ 100,000.- not covered by insurance.
"I work as supply teacher at Massey Vanier school in Cowansville in the off season, but last year I had no time to teach, I could not even go for a bike ride. I was too busy with the construction and the never ending discussions with my insurers, an issue that is still ongoing At least I did not have a previous mortgage, we had just paid it off. Now it starts all over again".
The new building is superbly laid out inside with heated floors even in the huge basement which now holds approximately 50 new Miele and Rocky Mountain bikes in boxes, to be assembled in the next two weeks. The store is clean and bright and the only major problem is that the parking lot is a sea of mud. As soon as this dries, the gravel trucks will come and lay a thick gravel layer down.
"Much has yet to be done but we are open again, we have our first crop of repair bicycles in the shop and I do not seem to have lost any of my regular customers", explains Riordan."Last year, operating out of a rented trailer, we lost 65 percent of the normal business volume. Hopefully, with this new facility we shall see some daylight at the end of the year"
Velo Brome is back in the saddle, like Phoenix from the ashes, a new beginning for Charles and his clientele.