Several businesses in Downtown Blue Ridge were devastated by a fire that tore through the Fieldstone shopping complex on East Main Street on Saturday, Nov. 18, 2023 - these were businesses that epitomize the “Mom-and-Pop” shops that comprise the fabric of America.
Many of them have been a part of downtown Blue Ridge decades before the popularity our small town is blessed to have today - pioneers in the development of Main Street. The Fieldstone complex has been on Main Street for decades - its owners have deep roots in our region. These shops are at the heart of town, from The Bear Store to Big Frog Music to The Bird Seed Company to Danielle’s Cafe (formerly Big Eats). The big tree and beautiful lawn in front of these shops are the backdrop of thousands of visitors' and residents' memories.
The stores impacted or destroyed by the fire include The Bear Store, Big Frog Music, Blue Ridge Bird Seed Company, Unique Art and Design, Silk Road Traveller, Afrika Corner, Lacy Bear Candle and Decor, The Art House, and Danielle’s Cafe.
The Blue Ridge Business Association (BRBA) is raising funds for their needs - some have immediate needs such as rent, mortgage payments, and groceries. Others will need funds to bridge the gap between the fire and insurance payments to get them back on their feet. This process will be prolonged with fire investigations, insurance negotiations, and more.
BRBA is meeting with individual business owners to assess those needs and disburse funds from the 501 (c) 3 associated with the GoFundMe account. The BRBA is also seeking temporary and long-term business storefronts for impacted businesses. Three businesses have inventory to resume operations immediately but will not have access to their storefronts. Other businesses will have to evaluate their long-term goals.
All the business owners in Downtown Blue Ridge will be raising funds throughout the holiday season to support their neighbors; this is undoubtedly the time to shop local, donate to the BRBA’s online fundraising efforts, and lend a hand to these businesses that need help moving forward.
Update: We are always grateful when good can come from tragic circumstances. If this fire has shown us anything, it is that the Fannin County community is strong and that Blue Ridge is in the hearts of many. The BRBA gathered with collective community members representing all walks of life on Monday Nov 20, 2023 to discuss fundraising efforts, how to disburse funds, and a wealth of other ideas that emerged.
From this meeting, it was determined:
- The funds being raised are to be placed in an Emergency Assistance Fund - a separate account under the management of the BRBA
- A new committee will be formed representing a range of community members who will serve alongside the BRBA to assist in a transparent process of disbursement of the emergency funds that are raised
- Individuals & businesses will apply for funds and submit evidence of need
- Any overage of funds will be retained and used for other Emergency Assistance cases
- In conjunction with an application of funds, the Emergency Assistance Committee will create a list of advisors in various areas that can assist applicants in a wide range of expertise, from legal services to insurance to business development to real estate
- There is a BRBA Emergency Assistance Fund at BankOZK for anyone wishing to donate directly.
We are so grateful for the outpouring of support from our community and those beyond our county lines who love this city as much as we do. From the bottom of our hearts, we thank you. We will continue to keep you updated on the progress.