It has been six months since the devastating fire on Main last July.
Darryl Janzen of Janzen’s Paint says that when he thinks of the store, it “feels like yesterday.”
“I could just drive down Main Street, I think it's there. I could walk in the front door and I still know where everything should be. My staff would be there, everything is the way it was. The fire itself, even though I still remember that day so well, is starting to feel a little more distant,”
Their family businesses burning down isn’t a new story for the Janzen family. In 1961, Janzen’s grandfather owned the Winkler store. A fire burnt down eight businesses, including his grandfather's, that were located along Winkler’s Main Street.
Witnessing the Steinbach location on fire caused an “emotional day” for his family.
“The kids had some tears because it was their favourite place to go when they weren't home. It was definitely traumatic and it took them weeks to process. The new locations really helped with the healing,” Janzen says.
However, he says that he’s been able to move forward.
“I don't want to dwell on the negative of that day. Definitely want to take this now as a new beginning and try and look at the positive of we could do things differently now I guess, even though we're starting smaller. You have to be positive because your staff feeds off that too, right? You want to make this a new positive environment. That's my goal,”
The aftermath of the fire left Janzen’s Paint and Decorating, Best West Pet Foods, H & R Block, Investia Financial Services, Liberty Counselling Centre and Steinbach’s Flooring Canada all searching for a new home.
“There were so many tenants that lost their building. Everyone was scrambling for real estate in this town,” Janzen says.
He ended up renting the old Holiday RV building and has been using it as an off-site warehouse. Their new main location is at 165 Park Road West. He says it will be a “two-location business for a while.”
As for their main building, he says that it is a two-year lease.
“We still don't know if the landlords are going to rebuild yet. They haven't made their final decision. There are lots of new buildings popping up and we are going to have to weigh our decision there. Staying here long-term is a possibility. We're also looking at that because we do like the location and our contractors really like the location, so it's something we're going to consider,” Janzen says.
Their new location was previously a dance studio and was also occupied by Elections Canada. Janzen and his team made changes to fit their needs.
“The biggest thing was we wanted the retail space to still feel like it was meant to be a store. We took down the dance studio wall and that opened it all up. We kept the dance studio floor there because it looked good for the design area. The rest of the store is more of the games, toys and hobbies," Janzen says. "For now, we're just making it functional until we know the long-term plans. We're trying to keep it a little bit basic that way, but the design area, we wanted to look as much like the modern Benjamin Moore’s as we can. We added some extra lights in there to brighten it up. Now, we just got to get the last of the products. That's been another issue is getting enough products in because there still have been supply chain issues. We're not fully stocked like we were before the fire yet. We're close, but we're not quite there yet,”
With five locations across the province, Janzen says that while they temporarily hit pause on their Steinbach location, their customers were visiting their other locations.
“Some of our customers went to our Winnipeg location as well because we do have a store there too. If you're a one-location store, you just lose all your business. We were very fortunate that we could still serve our customers and half my staff kept working for that reason because we were still working and selling,”
He adds that having the Winkler location helped alleviate the situation but also added stress.
"I had a couple of my staff driving there almost every day to help them with that almost double workload. But it was nice that we had a place that could tint and have products that we could bring back often same day,”
When questions about moving their business to another area arose, he says that it was a "quick decision” to make.
“If I look back to when we started 23 years ago, now it's almost 24 years ago, the sales that we had generated in our store were still growing. It was just an easy decision not to give up in this area, plus our roots are here. We didn't want to go anywhere,”
As they continue serving the community and settling into their new location, Janzen says that “it’s starting to feel like home and have the paint smell, the game smell.”
With files from Adi Loewen.