It was late morning on Dec. 2 and Kelly McCray had just placed $100 in the cash register of the craft store she had opened two months earlier in Union City’s former Ethan Allen plant on South Main Street.
Just the day before, McCray had purchased about $180 worth of new inventory, because business had been good and sales were picking up as more and more holiday shoppers were stopping into Kelly’s Crafts & More. McCray and her husband had also just spent about $400 to spruce up the store, buying a new picture window, carpeting and a door.
The promise of a successful business, however, soon would go up in smoke.
“I was behind the counter putting away craft supplies and some guy opened the door and asked how long I’d been here,” McCray said. “He said the building was on fire and I had to get out.”
McCray quickly went outside to move her vehicle that was parked on the other side of the structure. She would never return to the store. The former furniture plant burned to the ground in a massive fire that had nearly every fire department in the region at the scene.
Because she carried no insurance on her business, McCray, of Elgin, took the loss hard.
“When that fire took everything, Kelly went into a deep depression,” said McCray’s mother, Diana Kent, of Titusville. “She wanted to give up.”
But she didn’t.
McCray has risen from the ashes with a new store, A Little Bit of Crafts & More, at 29 W. South St. in Corry. The store opened Monday and McCray couldn’t be happier.
“I absolutely love this building,” McCray said. “I think we’ll do just fine here. It was a good move for us to come here.”
Kent, who has been lending her talents to get the business off the ground, agrees that Corry should be a good location.
“This has given Kelly back her spark,” Kent said. “She loves it.”
Many of the crafts sold at the store are handmade by McCray, including planters, picture frames, welcome signs and “primitive” items.
Craft supplies such as rafia, wood, plastic canvas, paint and ribbons also are available.
McCray also will make custom orders.
“We want feedback from the public so we know what people like,” she said. “We want them to keep their business in Corry so they don’t have to travel out of town.”
Tricia Weed, of Centerville, and her boyfriend, Gail Bidwell, also had owned a business, Tricia’s Treasures, in the Ethan Allen plant. And like McCray, they carried no insurance. Their entire inventory was consumed by fire, including antiques, glassware, Christmas items and about 200 collectible tins.
“We’re trying to slowly build back up,” Weed said.
Weed, too, wants to start over again in Corry.
“We’re going to move in somewhere,” she said. “We plan on moving to Corry come spring.”
Weed is happy McCray has persevered and landed on her feet after such a devastating loss.
“I met her in there (at Ethan Allen) and we’ve become great friends,” Weed said. “I love what she’s done. She’s worked very hard.”
McCray’s husband, Brad, a 1998 Corry graduate, owns a construction business, New Concepts Construction. He, too, helps out and stands by his wife 100 percent.
“I was in Erie the day of the fire and showed up after,” he said. “It was fully involved — just devastating. It was a sad day. I felt sorry for my wife.”
But Brad McCray now sees the smoke settling with the opening of the new store.
“I think this is going to work out good for us,” he said.
The McCrays already have taken steps to make sure another disaster doesn’t wipe them out.
“This is all insured,” Kelly McCray said. “That’s one of the first things we did.”