Donna Doherty usually folds the linens at Gig Harbor’s thrift store on Tuesday nights, but there won’t be anything for her to straighten for a while after the community fixture burned to the ground early Tuesday.
“It was just like getting hit in the stomach,” said 75-year-old Doherty, the store’s longest-standing volunteer at 34 years. “It took the wind out of my sails. … It was like losing an old friend.”
Proceeds from the Peninsula Orthopedic Guild No. 1 Thrift Store benefit Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital and Health Center in Tacoma. The store, which has had several locations, has raised more than $1.7 million since it opened in 1948. In 2011, the guild donated about $80,000 to Mary Bridge.
The store is run by about 30 volunteers who represent the Peninsula Orthopedic Guild No. 1.
“It’s kind of like the general store,” said Doherty, who added that her grandchildren use services at Mary Bridge. “People come, they know there’s someone friendly they can visit with.”
Firefighters found the roughly 40-by-20-foot store engulfed in flames when they responded to the 6900 block of Kimball Drive about 1:30 a.m. An adjacent storage area was partially burned and sustained smoke and water damage.
The blaze apparently was started by an electrical problem, though officials still were investigating Tuesday, Gig Harbor fire spokeswoman Nanette Tatom said.
One firefighter was taken to the hospital for a knee injury and later released. No one else was hurt.
Investigators determined the loss to be $61,000, including the store’s contents, items of which were routinely displayed on the building’s porch.
Volunteers paid to put bars on the windows about a month ago to prevent theft after the store was burglarized twice in the last six months, Gig Harbor police said.
The guild said it has about six months’ worth of revenue saved up, which is not enough to rebuild. Officials said they will rely on donations; they have established a fund the public can contribute to at any Kitsap Bank branch.
“Everything we do is by donation,” guild President Bev Reinvik said. “We do not have the funds available at the moment.”
However, she said the guild has the go-ahead from the city to rebuild at the site and intends to do so as soon as possible.
Doherty and others hope that’s soon.
“We don’t want to lose our customers that donate to us,” she said. “Hopefully, we’ll be up and running as soon as possible, (with) a new and better building maybe.”alexis.krell@ thenewstribune.com 253-597-8268