An alarm company called Sam Hoy on Sept. 25. His livelihood, a dry cleaning business, was aflame.
He rushed over at 10 p.m. to stand in front of the store, where he and his wife spent 15 years, as it burned.
Central Pierce Fire & Rescue responded to a strip mall fire in the Valley Plaza. As the fire department drew closer, the crew saw the size of the smoke column and called a second-alarm for backup.
The fire took two hours to put out, Capt. Darrin Shaw said. The seven-business strip mall was charred and full of debris by midnight.
Denise Roosendaal and her husband, who own Impressive Trophies & Awards, were on their first vacation in years visiting their son on the East Coast. Their two-week plans were cut short when she got a call from her daughter that something had happened at the trophy store.
“We were in disbelief,” Roosendaal told The Puyallup Herald. “It’s something you don’t plan for. You realize life changes in an instant, and you’re not planning for it.”
The couple’s business was one of the lucky storefronts.
All the business share a flat roof, so smoke, soot and fire traveled from the Happy Dryclean & Laundromat into the neighboring stores. Five storefronts away from the dry cleaners, Impressive Trophies & Awards missed much water or fire damage, Roosendaal said.
Along the strip mall, the roof is melted or fallen through and the ceiling is still full of soot. A fence barricades the worse half of the businesses while orange cones and tape rope off the others. The dry cleaners is boarded and locked. All the front doors have signs to say they are closed or by-appointment only.
The fire marshal’s office is still investigating the cause of the fire, Shaw said.
The Roosendaals have been working out of the store intermittently by appointment-only. Denise Roosendaal said they are trying their best to not lose customers.
“We are trying to find a new place and try to maintain some normalcy,” she said. “It’s having to be flexible and thinking on the fly, and you do what you have to so that your customers don’t skip a beat.”
A Taekwondo studio, Q’s Taekwondo, bookends the far side of the strip mall. While the distance from the fire helped, the studio is full of soft, absorptive material, like puzzle mats, kickbacks and gear.
The owner, Antonio Quiming, decided to move his business for his customers’ health.
“My program is 80 percent kids, and I didn’t want a change to affect their breathing with the smell of smoke,” he said.
The studio was closed for two weeks while workers decontaminated mats and equipment and moved across the plaza. Quiming, known as Master Q, and his daughter teach up to 50 students, now in a studio twice as big but without mirrors.
“It’s just a place. My main part of my program is about the students. I could run a class without any equipment,” Quiming said.
Quiming and Roosendaal said the building likely will be demolished, so they aren’t holding out hope that a few months of work and renovation will restore their businesses. Roosendaal and her husband own a second business, a Christmas tree farm, and the timing of the fire couldn’t be worse.
“I don’t have time for this,” she said. “I know it’s selfish because others have lost everything now, but I don’t know what I can and can’t do. I feel out of control.”
Hoy keeps the business phone line on and picks up every call to keep customers updated. The customer interaction was Hoy’s favorite part of running a dry cleaning business.
He and his wife worked 10-hour days everyday to keep their clients content. With the business completely demolished, Hoy doesn’t know the next steps.
“It’s a really hectic time, I don’t know what I’m going to do,” he said. “We are stuck in the middle between the fire and the investigation.”