White Hat Cleaners owners Rob and Brenda Harris pose for a photo in front of their two new dry cleaning machines which are far more environmentally-friendly than the old machines lost in the fire.

Fire-gutted Campbell River businesses expect to re-open in December

White Hat Cleaners and Stonehouse Teas expect to re-open their shops next month which were destroyed by a devastating fire in June

Moving in day has never been so fun for Rob and Brenda Harris.

The owners of the White Hat Drycleaners and Commercial Laundry were smiling ear-to-ear last Wednesday when equipment started rolling in to replace the machines lost in a June fire.

“Look at that beautiful orange colour!” says Brenda as she looks over the two new 40-pound dry cleaning machines.

Actually, says Rob, his wife wasn’t sure about orange, but the dry cleaners are state-of-the-art.

“These are so-o-o-o cool,” says Rob. “They’re also the price of two Winnebagos.There sits our retirement!”

Just after midnight on June 22, fire broke out near the entrance of White Hat Cleaners, located at 601-11th Ave. The blaze gutted the building, torched all the cleaning equipment, and also damaged two neighbouring businesses.

St. Jean’s Cannery and Smokehouse sustained minor damage and reopened quickly following the fire, but Stonehouse Teas, located on the other side of White Hat, had serious fire, smoke and water damage, and it’s been closed since then.

However, both White Hat and Stonehouse are expecting to reopen by Saturday, Dec. 7.

“We’re coming back and soon!” says Stonehouse Teas owner Tanya Hofer. “December is also our busiest month.”

The reopening at White Hat will also be the launch day for the Salvation Army’s winter coats program. For several years now, White Hat has been accepting donations of good used winter coats and they dry clean them for free. The coats are then distributed to children and families who need them.

“It’s a good way to break in the machines, cleaning coats for kids,” says Brenda.

More details are to come, but the Harris’s plan to have a grand re-opening with a drop-off day for coats and tours of their operation.

And the operation itself will be much-improved as a result of new equipment, says Rob. The new dry cleaners are much more environmentally-friendly, there are new and bigger washers and dryers, and 19 presses – all coming in at about $500,000, most of which was covered by insurance.

The one other thing Rob is really anxious about is his new office.

“I never had an office before,” he muses. “I always wanted one with a bottle of scotch in the desk drawer.I don’t even drink scotch!”