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Salvation Army Boutique reopens following roof collapse

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MASSENA — The Salvation Army Boutique, 170 Highland Road, reopened to the public Monday, exactly one month after a roof collapse forced its closure.

“We’re excited to be open,” Salvation Army Capt. Cynthia Crowsen said Monday morning as customers returned to the store for the first time since the beginning of January.

No injuries were reported and no merchandise was damaged when the roof of a garage area collapsed midafternoon Jan. 3. No merchandise was stored in that area of the boutique, Capt. Crowsen said.

She noted her concern at the time was ensuring customers, employees and volunteers were safely out of the store.

“Initially it was sounding like just ice (falling),” she said, when it was in fact that the roof had fallen in from the weight of heavy ice. “It created a lot of heaviness on the roof.”

Capt. Crowsen commended store manager Darlene Pelkey for safely evacuating employees, volunteers and shoppers from the store. The store has one full-time and eight part-time employees.

“Darlene did a great job of getting the customers, staff and volunteers out,” she said.

The Massena Volunteer Fire Department, Massena Rescue Squad, Department of Public Works, St. Lawrence Gas and Massena Electric all responded to the building, which is owned by James Grow of Massena, who leases a portion of it to The Salvation Army. Following the collapse, Brainard Construction and Riley’s Plumbing were on the scene and were able to drain the lines to prevent flooding. The gas, electric and other essentials were also turned off. The gas line in the building had broken when the roof collapsed.

Now, Capt. Crowsen said, electric and water lines have been moved indoors. A new door leading from the boutique to the collapsed area has also been installed, with enough security to keep children from opening it, but with enough flexibility to be opened in case of an emergency.

Mr. Grow has been handling all of the work to get the building open again, she said.

“He’s working with us, keeping us up to date. We had to wait until it was deemed structurally safe,” she said.

Store employees were able to return about a week and a half ago to begin the cleanup process, Capt. Crowsen said. Among their efforts were cleaning the floors and shelving and throwing out the limited number of items that were damaged.

Now that the doors are open again, she said, employees are looking forward to greeting customers once more.

“We miss our customers. We appreciate the loyalty they have to the boutique. We had a lot of regulars calling the office and asking when we would be reopening,” Capt. Crowsen said. “We’re just excited to be open. We’re part of the community. The money raised goes back to the community.”

The Salvation Army wasn’t able to raise that money while the store was closed. It came at a time when she said many people were cleaning out their closets to replace older items with things they had received for Christmas, and many times those older items would be suitable for sale at the boutique.

“For us, the biggest thing is we average $800 a day. Many days we bring in much more than that. Right after New Year’s is a big time for us. We did lose quite a bit of revenue. If we don’t have revenue, we can’t put it back into the community. It stays here in Massena and the surrounding communities (served by the local Salvation Army),” she said.

The loss of income limited the boutique’s ability to help out individuals in need of assistance, according to Capt. Crowsen.

“We want to be able to help. We didn’t turn people away, but we did a little more tightening of our belts,” she said.

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