To the rescue: Community helps Not Too Shabby in Milford after blaze destroys inventory, retail space

Blankets collected by community members to be donated to local shelters filled a corner of Not Too Shabby in Milford on Tuesday. Flowers were ready for a funeral to be held the next morning. A fresh delivery of paint stocked a shelving unit, new candles were ready for holiday gifts and a handmade batch of soaps offered a fragrant smell inside the business.

Delaware State News/Jennifer Antonik
Delaware State News/Jennifer Antonik

Hours later, they were destroyed by a fire that rampaged through the building along with all of Not Too Shabby’s inventory — the business sold antique furnishings and home items and also flowers — which had been prepped for their upcoming two-year anniversary and Christmas open house event.

Carlisle Fire Company’s live log reports the call received at 7:27 p.m. Tuesday. Firefighters quickly arrived to find fire and smoke billowing from the front door of the store located on the corner of S. Rehoboth Boulevard and Cedar Creek Road.

The fire, which remained under investigation as of Wednesday according to the fire marshal’s office, drew a crowd including business owners Don Vaughan and William Payton, family, friends and other professionals such as Downtown Milford, Inc. Board President Peggy Reilly, Paula Mast of Farmhouse 302 and Lifecycle owners Jenn Rowan and Ben Jones.

Delaware State News/Jennifer Antonik
Delaware State News/Jennifer Antonik

A unified effort to help the small business owners survive the holiday season began to evolve as leaders at the scene learned that the pair had just added new inventory ahead of their biggest holiday event.

After sleep refueled their minds and a few hours gave others time to get involved, $800 was raised the next morning at a meeting held at Westside Restaurant to be given to Mr. Vaughan and Mr. Payton to help them re- stock.

Funds raised over the next few days will give the entrepreneurs the opportunity to travel to Pennsylvania where they often find some of their most unique treasures which they either sell as doit- yourself items or refurbish for sale.

There won’t be time this week to refurbish new items, but their event will go on, Ms. Rowan emphasized.

A generous donation of vendor space from Matt Babbitt, Abbott’s Mill Nature Center site manager, will allow the business owners the chance to sell items during the annual Foraged: Merry Market at the Mill holiday event Saturday, Dec. 7 from noon to 4 p.m.

Delaware State News/Jennifer Antonik

“They are just going to set up as if life goes on,” Ms. Rowan said during the meeting after announcing the off- site event and requesting donations of items and money to help get Not Too Shabby through this difficult time.

“If you physically want to get grunt work in, Abbott’s Mill is the perfect place to help run the event. Downtown merchants are going to bring items, and they’re going to bring some of their hot selling items. So, not only will they have stuff from Pennsylvania, but they’ll have a smattering of downtown Milford items, too. . . To physically be present and support Not Too Shabby, you’re going to want to be at the Christmas market at Abbott’s Mill.”

She added that item donations can be delivered to Lifecycle over the next couple of days. Monetary donations, cash or check, can be delivered to Downtown Milford, Inc.’s office on Walnut Street with checks written out to Not Too Shabby.

A GoFundMe link has also been set up to benefit the business so community members can donate online: gf.me/v/c/lzt/not-too-shabbyfire-recovery.

“It’s so important for the community to come together for Don and William because all they’ve done since they opened their business was be a part of this community. They’re always doing for the community, so it’s really important for the community to come together and do for them,” Nikki Quillen said.

Delaware State News/Jennifer Antonik

“The goal is to find them a space and help them get back on their feet. As a small business owner, you’re constantly struggling to keep your business up and do the day-to- day stuff. And the big goal is to find them a soft place to land when suffering from something like this.”

During the meeting, Westside Restaurant owner Madula Kalesis also offered to organize a raffle with items from local businesses and artisans with the help of Downtown Milford, Inc. Donations for the raffle can also be delivered to Lifecycle.

Delaware State News/Jennifer Antonik

“I really think Milford small businesses, their values are that we are not competitors, but we are collaborators,” Ms. Rowan said. “We can’t all be hands. We need somebody to be feet. We need some people to be arms. We need some people to be the brain and when all of the downtown small businesses come together, it creates the whole unit of a human body that can serve Milford and that can serve Delaware. . . If we do not care for each other, if we do not collaborate, if we do not surround each other in times of tragedy, it is neglecting our very self, who we are. It’s like neglecting a part of our body.”

Not Too Shabby has demonstrated their role in Milford as a crucial part of the town’s soul, she added.

“They have been a community hub for creativity. You can go in there and say, ‘Hey, I have this space in my house that is really weird. Can you help me?’ Or, ‘Hey, I want to DIY this project,’ and they will encourage you and enable you. They financially give to events and people downtown. They just are very community centric. So, of course that’s all going to come back naturally. Their investment in us is going to come back,” she said.

Mr. Vaughan said he and Mr. Payton are still stunned by the events that have happened, including the outpouring of support from the Milford community. But he said he is also humbled by and appreciative of the efforts.

To stay informed on the latest relief efforts for Not Too Shabby, Ms. Rowan and Ms. Reilly encourages community members to visit an event set up on Facebook at https://www.facebook. com/events/435327647135978/.

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