TIPP CITY — Since the devastating fire that closed her business on Feb. 26, Living Simply Soap owner Tanya Brown said she’s been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support and assistance from the community.
The shop at 112 E. Main St. in Tipp City will be closed indefinitely and online sales have been suspended, but Brown said she’s keeping busy and staying optimistic.
“Just like with every kind of tragedy, every day you feel maybe just a little bit better,” Brown said.
The cause of the fire is still unknown. According to Tipp City’s Assistant Fire Chief David Stockler, investigators will be taking a look in the next week to determine what might have started it. He estimated that the fire caused about $575,000 in damages to the downtown building.
Brown — who declared “We are makers, we are builders, we will be back!” on Facebook the day of the fire — said work to reopen the business will begin as soon as she is cleared to “lift a hammer.”
“It’s going to be a long journey,” she said.
She said that rebuilding after the fire will be a process necessitating permits for the historic building, but she is working with her insurance provider and a restoration company to get the ball rolling.
“My son Jake is the one that did the initial renovation on that building eight years ago and he is going to be a very vital part of the restoration this time as well,” she said.
Within hours of the fire, fellow downtown business owners and members of the community jumped to help their neighbors. Brown said she’s been overwhelmed by the response to the fire.
“Boy, it’s hard to ask for help. Nobody wants to have to ask for help, I didn’t want to ask for help, but people kept saying, ‘You know, people want to help. It’s OK,’” she said.
With the help of Justin Livingston, the owner of Scratch Bakery, Brown set up an Amazon wish list and deliveries started rolling in quickly.
“He has been such a warrior for us,” Brown said of Livingston.
Livingston, who counts Brown as one of his closest friends, said he saw the news of the fire that morning and quickly made the decision to donate tips and 10 percent of a week’s sales to Living Simply Soap.
“As makers, we have to stick together,” Livingston said. He organized donation jars with other local businesses and set up a Go Fund Me page that has already raised $2,400. “She’s an incredible person. She gives back to other people always.”
Several local stores have been selling flowers to raise funds for Living Simply Soap. Birch, a downtown clothing store, created special T-shirts to raise money and the Tipp City Chamber of Commerce collected cleaning supplies.
“It’s absolutely incredible to see how fast this is happening. People want her back and we need her in this community,” Livingston said.
In addition, a barbecue fundraiser is planned for March 16, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 3G Tactical. The proceeds will go to Rusty Harden Studio, which lost some merchandise and the ability to host classes after the fire. Rusty Harden Studio plans to re-open on March 13.
Brown said the community has also been keeping the Living Simply Soap team fed. Sam and Ethel’s, Harrison’s Restaurant, Bodega and the Miami County Visitor’s Bureau have been bringing them meals.
“Everybody has been really, really kind,” she said.
Brown, who started her soap business by selling her products as farmers markets, said she is still planning to expand the business into a new location.
Knowing the her business was outgrowing the kitchens in the Main Street building, Brown started looking for a new manufacturing space in Tipp City. She bought a building on North Fourth Street last fall.
“It’s just ironic how things work out,” she said. Brown, her family and employees were already working to renovate the new space when the fire happened at their first location.
She hopes to have the new manufacturing space open this year.
“It will be a celebration,” she said, adding that she’d like to host an open house in the new space once it’s finished. “And then when Main Street gets back up and running, that will be dancing in the streets time.”
Brown said she has read every message on Facebook and has been touched by the comments from customers, who have shared stories about Living Simply Soap employees helping them to find just the right gift or a child’s bad day improved by shopping for bath bombs.
“We did not realize that we had touched so many people in such a positive way,” she said. “You know, you stand there and do your business, you’re making your things, you’re taking care of customers, you’re just doing your day to day… Something so simple as what we do can help.”
To keep up with the store’s progress or find more information about support efforts, find Living Simply Soap on Facebook.
Reach Cecilia Fox at firstname.lastname@example.org.