Shelves are stocked once again at Little Tiger Toys after a leaking pipe from an upstairs apartment sent water raining into the downtown Bellingham toy store on a busy afternoon last Saturday.
Fortunately for the store, which is located at 112 Grand Ave., business is now back to normal. Yet the timing of the incident could have been better.
Manager Selah Tay-Song said fast-acting staff managed to move toys out of harm’s way quickly to avoid serious inventory losses.
“There was a lot less damage to merchandise than there could have been,” Tay-Song said, in an interview Dec. 9.
But the loss of half a Saturday, a vital sales day at Little Tiger Toys in the weeks leading up to Christmas, will be more difficult to recover from, since every minute counts in the holiday sales season, she said. Now, the store will have to try to make up the lost time over the next few weekends, she said.
Here are excerpts from an account of the incident provided by Tay-Song via a Dec. 8 email:
“During a brief lull in a busy Saturday, water started pouring from the ceiling at Little Tiger Toys. Assistant Manager Ocean Christensen was showing a couple of customers the “Made in America” section when she felt drops of water hitting her. She looked up and water was dripping from the ceiling tiles.
Soon it was virtually raining in the entire back room of the 2,700-square-foot store.
The culprit was a frozen pipe in the vacant apartment unit above the store. When the store’s heat came on in the morning the pipe thawed. This caused a leak that flooded the upstairs, and by about 1:30 in the afternoon, it had filled the apartment and started eroding the ceiling tiles of Little Tiger Toys.
Water continued to pour into the store for nearly an hour until a plumber arrived and shut off the water to the building. The building’s slant caused it to flow into the front of the store, and employees and customers hurried to clear merchandise and shelves out of it’s path. The Bellingham Fire Department was called and helped to contain and remove the water.”
Tay-Song said the full cost of the damage was yet to be determined. Damage to the store will be covered through insurance, she said.
Little Tiger Toys fully reopened on Tuesday, Dec. 10, after operating within one half of the store on Sunday and Monday. The store will be open daily from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. this week, and daily from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. the following week.
Tay-Song credited the quick action of her staff in helping to minimize the impacts of the flooding. She said if she could have done anything differently, she would have called the fire department in earlier before more water was able to leak into the store.
Insurance experts say proactive planning is a key aspect for small businesses in handling floods, fires or other disasters. The Northwest Insurance Council has a variety of information available on its website.
Evan Marczynski, staff reporter for The Bellingham Business Journal, can be reached at 360-647-8805, Ext. 5052, or firstname.lastname@example.org.