Owners eye repairs for damaged Clayton building

CLAYTON — The owners of a downtown building that partially collapsed last month plan to replace the roof as soon as possible, they said last week.

Tenants from two second-floor apartments and a first-floor business at 401 Main Street were displaced on June 11 when a truss roof system failed and pushed walls outward, according to the Clayton Fire Company.

“We are working diligently to get the apartments emptied so we can install a new roof for the structure,” said Sharon Neal, who has co-owned the building with husband Jerry for 33 years.

“Once the tenants go in and take their belongings out, the building repairs can begin.”

Several residents needed assistance exiting their apartments when their doors jammed during the incident, the Clayton FC said. No injuries were reported.

First responders closed off streets and rescued tenants after a partial building collapse at 401 Main Street in Clayton on June 11. (Delaware State News/Craig Anderson)

Mrs. Neal declined further comment, citing “other issues that are involved with this.” She did say the emergency was unlike anything the building had ever been part of in over three decades.

Two 1,400 square foot apartments and the Fingertip Fantasies dollhouse miniature shop are now unoccupied.

“We are temporarily closed due to some damages to the roof of the building our shop is housed in,” the business posted online at dollhouseminiatures.com.

“This is temporary, we will post a notice on our website and through snapretail when we will re-open. Thank you for your patience and understanding. Hope to re-open very shortly.”

On Thursday, Fingertip Fantasies owner Cindy DeVore said her business insurance carrier has hired ServPro to pack up as much inventory as possible for removal.

“They have to completely undo the showroom area of the shop floor,” she said, noting her uncertainty of how a storage room will be handled.

Stalled repairs

According to Ms. DeVore, ownership initially planned cleanup and repairs “right away” before being stalled by insurance issues. Now she said it could be a matter of months before she can return to her business site of two years.

“They began cleaning up right afterward but then had to stop,” she said.

The landlords lent a gas-powered generator to Ms. DeVore to run fans inside the business, which was affected by the heat and humidity coupled with inside water damage during the response. For three weeks, she said she was not allowed to enter her store.

“The landlords have been trying to do as much as they can to help out,” she said of the Neals. “They are wonderful people, they really are. They have been very helpful and extremely sorrowful that this happened.

Since the incident, Ms. DeVore said the town has been quite communicative with keeping her posted, and the local citizenry and patrons have checked in with her as well.

“The Town of Clayton is a wonderful place, one where everyone looks out for each other,” she said. “I’ve had a lot of support from customers and the people who live here have been wonderful as well.”

Two apartments and a business have been vacated after a partial building collapse on Main Street in Clayton on June 11. (Delaware State News/Craig Anderson)

There’s plenty of work to be done, however, and the building currently has no electric, gas or water available. At attempt to contact the Town Clayton for an update last week was unsuccessful.

“The floors and almost all the wall boards must be redone,” Ms. DeVore said.

Besides physical damage, the emotional toll has been extensive as well.

“It was very scary for the first couple days afterward when I didn’t know what was going on,” Ms. DeVore said.

“When I was finally inside I took a look at my little store and it was depressing. I’m a very positive person and plan to roll up my sleeves and move forward and do the best I can with the situation.

Ms. DeVore said of the site “I do like it there and plan to return.”

The collapse reported

The collapse reported at 12:31 p.m. drew a large response from first responders, including 38 Clayton FC members. The Delaware State Police Aviation Unit was dispatched, along with the Kent County special ops team, EMS units from Smyrna American Legion Ambulance 64, and Kent County paramedics. Citizens’ Hose Company of Smyrna backed up to cover any further Clayton alarms.

A safety zone kept onlookers away from the building as crews conducted their initial inspections, the Clayton FC said.

The American Red Cross responded to help the displaced residents, the fire company said. A home at 403 Main Street was also evacuated for safety precautions and a building at the rear at 101 Clayton Avenue.

Firefighters remained at the site for nearly two hours, and the Clayton Police Department then provided security for the rest of the day. Inspections were scheduled for the next day.

Clayton Public Works and Inspections, DelDOT, Verizon and Chesapeake Utilities also responded to the incident, which required partial road closures on Main Street and Clayton Avenue.

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