A Lakewood furniture maker is looking to work out of a temporary location until he can rebuild from the ashes of a fire last week that destroyed his plant and that investigators have ruled accidental.
Owner R.J. Cleland said he hopes to get his first shipments out the door in several weeks.
“The customers are the key to the whole thing,” he said. “The building I can replace, but the loyalty of the customer is really the answer.”
West Pierce Fire & Rescue reported Thursday that the fire was accidental. Spokeswoman Jenny Weekes said the Aug. 7 blaze was likely caused by improperly disposed rags and started in the finishing area of Grandwood Furniture, 7505 52nd Ave W.
It took about 50 firefighters to douse flames on the three-alarm fire, and the building was a total loss. Cleland estimated the loss of the building and contents at $1.7 million.
About 30 investigators from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were called in to assist with the investigation, which wrapped up this week. The ATF team has left the area. A spokeswoman in the agency’s Seattle office didn’t return a message seeking comment.
Cleland started the business in 2001. It has more than a dozen employees, who are now receiving unemployment, and generates annual revenues of about $1.5 million.
He said the Old Cannery furniture warehouse in Sumner is his biggest customer, and other stores in the region sell Grandview’s furniture. Costco has also sold it.
Cleland began making furniture at age 15, walking from Sumner High School to his job at a furniture maker, Randall Allen Design. He ascended to become a partner in the business before striking out on his own.
On Aug. 7, Cleland received a call from his brother, Robert, who works at the plant, alerting him to the fire. Thinking it was a small fire like the kind that have ignited at the plant before, he told his brother to put it out.
“It’s on the roof,” his brother told him. “It’s already 35 feet above the roof.”
ATF agents interviewed R.J. Cleland and later cleared him of any involvement in the fire. Cleland said he understood the agents had a job to do.