There's No Place Like Home(work)
By Charelle Evelyn on November 16 2016
There’s no charred furniture or singed clothing on the sales floor, but the memory of the May 6 fire that destroyed Homework’s downtown Prince George location is still fresh for Anthony Voitik.
Watching a movie at home with their family, Voitik and wife Louise Fonda – co-managers of the gift, fashion and home decor store – received a phone call from their security company that the Third Avenue property’s smoke detector had been triggered after a fire had broken out in the neighbouring building. “I just drove down there as quick as I could and when I got there, the flames started leaping to our second floor,” Voitik recalled.
The blaze spread through that second floor and that was it. The first floor wasn’t engulfed, but it sustained water and smoke damage as well as more damage from the ceiling falling through. A fire is devastating in any circumstance, but those behind Homework felt it even more keenly having just reopened in the new location after six months of renovations.
“It was a complete shocker,” Voitik said. The nearly centuryold heritage building had been repurposed to blend the historic with the modern.
“It was so nice – like a gallery, almost. I felt it really showcased everything in the store really well,” said Voitik.
Since opening on Oct. 10, 2007, Homework has become a Prince George staple for anyone looking for unique and fun merchandise, following on the heels of its older sister store in Prince Rupert, headed by David Smook and Lucy Pribas.
After the blaze, Voitik and Fonda had to have some serious conversations with their business partners about the next steps – including whether to just call it a day.
“There definitely was a consideration on the table. You have option A, B and C. We definitely didn’t want to do that but we had to weigh everything and make the right decision,” Voitik said. “Thankfully the support from the community was a really huge boost. There were so many people on our Facebook page commenting every day and really excited to have us back.”
Barely two months after the fire, Homework reopened in Pine Centre Mall (it’s next to Sears) and has settled nicely into its new environment – so nicely that the previous tenant’s flooring and fixtures complement the Homework aesthetic so well there was little the Voitik and Fonda had to add to make it their own.
While the new location has brought new challenges – such as requiring more staff and bringing in different product lines so that they weren’t in direct competition with other mall tenants – it has also brought Homework new clientele and a renewed vigor.
Plans are in the works to rebuild and reopen in the nowdemolished downtown location and bring the total of Homework stores in the city to two.
“We were planning to start a mall location eventually,” Voitik said. “We’re just doing things backwards now.”
REPORTER FOR THE PRINCE GEORGE CITIZEN
Journalist, west coast native, music lover. Made in Canada.