A devastating fire took place on Peachtree Road in Buckhead on the night of December 4th. The fire started in Peachtree Bikes, but smoke and water damage affected a number of adjacent businesses. Below, please find updated information regarding the status and temporary locations of those affected.
Witzlib Fitness Studio - The northernmost space affected by the fire, Witzlib Fitness Studio, was one of the first fitness centers in Atlanta to offer cycling programs, long before the entrance of Flywheel into the market. The studio also offers TRX Rip Training and TRX Suspension Training, as well as assorted other fitness classes. Smoke damage sustained during the fire has kept the studio closed. According to an email sent out last night, they are "currently working through the process of bringing back the workouts you love by getting all of our equipment cleaned or replaced." They went on to say "Please continue to standby for more concrete information on the cleaning timeline and an estimated date to reopen. We should be able to provide you with more details early next week."
Sixt - Sixt is a German-based car rental company that opened in Atlanta earlier this year. In addition to their Buckhead location, Sixt operates branches in midtown at the Georgian Terrace Hotel and at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Sixt's Buckhead location is "mobile" now, with cars being delivered as needed and operations running out of their midtown and airport locations. Their branch suffered some smoke damage and was cleared out to be cleaned. Sixt plans to return to Buckhead just as soon as they can.
Peachtree Bikes - The cause of the fire remains a mystery to many, but one thing that is no mystery is Peachtree Bikes owners Mike & Elexa Wagaman's determination to rebuild. Peachtree Bikes was the epicenter of the fire and the store is a complete loss. Peachtree Bikes was the first to have a gofundme donation page set up in its name (and was reportedly the inspiration for Cacao's page) but the page was taken down a short time later. Instead of seeking donations, Mike and company invited customers to join them at their Sandy Springs store on Hilderbrand Drive off Roswell Road where they promised amazing attention as the store is fully stocked with displaced Buckhead employees.
House of Fleming - The bespoke leather wares company is having what it calls a "Fire Sale with No Discounts" and is operating out of pH Wine Merchant. The company provided the following statement:
"We are a family run custom shop and our products are primarily made of alligator; however, we also produce items in stingray, shark, snake, etc. We focus our production on custom belts, watchstraps, and flat goods that are all handmade right here in Atlanta. While our retail location is being rebuilt, we remain fully operational on account of the generosity of pH Wine Merchant. We really can't thank them enough. For the time being, we will be operating a fully functional pop-up shop out of their storefront in Peachtree Hills. As our factory is located a few miles from our retail store, our production capacity has not been impacted by the fire."
"At this juncture, our focus is on providing our customer base with our usual level of customer service while we focus on the busy holiday season. The store has always been closed between December 26th and January 1st and that will not change this year. To help better connect with our customers, we are utilizing both facebook (facebook.com/HouseOfFleming) and twitter (twitter.com/HouseofFleming). We really try to offer a welcoming experience, so we hope our customers continue to come say hi to Nancy, Susan, & Bob and hang out while we work through the holiday season."
Cacao - Cacao, a purveyor of "bean to bar" chocolate, suffered extensive smoke damage from the fire. The night of the fire, the sister of Cacao founder Kristen Hard started a gofundme campaign to raise $100,000 in donations to "save our business." Claiming that 25% of their yearly revenue was derived from their Buckhead location during the holidays, Hard said the fire had wiped out their holiday stock. I and many other locals were troubled by what seemed to be a severe misuse of the gofundme site for the funding of a for profit business. A brief check of the GFM site shows worthy causes such as toddlers battling cancer, a recent widow raising four children on her own and a young man fighting for his life after a horrific car accident. Personally, I don't see a luxury chocolate maker in the same way as those causes.
After tweeting that I was disgusted by Hard's pleas for a #100KHandout , she requested I call her, and I did. While I do appreciate what she was doing and the fact that her chocolate is more expensive because its more pure than the likes of Hershey's, it still seemed wrong to seek such a large amount in "donations." Two pieces or information not made public previously were that according to Hard, she had every intention of paying back every dollar donated if / when the business survived and she was able. Additionally, she claimed to be seeking well qualified investors to provide an equity stake in the business in exchange for an infusion of cash in Cacao.
I also asked Hard about rumors that she chose to be under-insured and was therefore responsible for her current predicament. She claimed to have been completely uninformed and unaware that she was not fully protected.
Hard called me out for saying that she was running a "for profit business," as Hard claimed the business was not profitable! If you are running a business and not making a profit, perhaps your model is flawed. After all, Cacao is selling $6 candy bars and $60+ truffle boxes.
Our conversation took place the afternoon of December 9th. At that time, though depressed about her situation, Hard seemed determined to bounce back and reopen. The next day, however, Hard announced via facebook that the Buckhead store would remain closed and redirected patrons to her Virginia Highland location and to their website. At that time the gofundme goal amount was reduced to $1 and the campaign was indefinitely suspended.
I felt bad for her and she genuinely made me feel bad for having said what I'd said. Then, a mutual friend shared with me that Hard is most definitely not the "starving artist" of the chocolate industry she claimed to be. According to this source, not only did Hard recently purchase a new home in Ansley Park, but also a new Mercedes Benz SUV, and is most often found in designer clothes and accessories. While this is none of my business, my feeling is that if you live beyond your means and treat yourself and your child to the finer things in life, that's your choice. Don't ask the public for donations to pay for it.
Woof Gang Bakery - Sallie Patterson, along with her son Jim and his wife Tami are the local franchisees of Woof Gang Bakery & Grooming. The family reopened the store in April after an earlier franchisee closed the shop last year. Sallie was the most distraught business owner the night of the fire and was visibly shaken it. Due to "extensive smoke damage," the store has remain closed although the owners have pledged to reopen as soon as they are able.