- Associated Press - Saturday, October 31, 2015

FREDERICK, Md. (AP) - When Frederick native Veronica Burnside saw the ashes and charred remains of the boutique she had opened 10 months earlier in West Virginia, she considered closing the shop permanently.

A three-alarm fire that ripped through the historic district of Harpers Ferry on July 23 destroyed four buildings that housed several apartments and eight businesses, including Burnside’s boutique.

“I got a phone call at 6 a.m. from my landlord saying, ‘Your shop’s gone,’” Burnside said, recalling the morning of July 23. “I was in disbelief. But there it was - the shop was gone.”

La Niche Boutique was a small 600-square-foot shop nestled in a building at 180 High St., near Harpers Ferry’s historic district. The boutique carried everything from jewelry and hairbands to candles and clothing, even items handcrafted and created by Burnside herself.

However, none of this could be reclaimed or salvaged after the July 23 fire. The fire marshal’s office ruled Burnside’s boutique unsafe to enter, leaving Burnside with nothing but one item after the fire.

“I was not able to get anything out but that bird cage,” she said, pointing to the wire frame that now holds business cards in her new shop. “Everything else was gone.”

The loss of her carefully collected inventory, her source of income and her dream of owning a boutique weighed on Burnside in the days after the fire. She estimated the damages to be around $17,000.

“As a business owner, you’re never really prepared for something that . catastrophic,” she said. “So many emotions flooded my day-to-day thinking that there was one point where I was going to fold.”

But with help from family, friends and her insurance company, Burnside began to rebuild her inventory and start anew in her hometown of Frederick. When the boutique in Harpers Ferry was up and running, she had looked at potentially opening a second location in downtown Frederick when the time came, but “it just never came to fruition,” she said.

Today, La Niche Boutique offers a variety of soaps, candles, jewelry, hair items, clothing and interesting knickknacks at its new location at 134 N. East St. Burnside opened the roughly 1,100-square-foot space on Shab Row on Oct. 1 after months of renovations and preparations.

“I knew I had to do it, and I did it,” Burnside said. “That’s just my personality.”

Frederick County resident Chris Cook said he was happy to see his longtime friend persevere and reopen her shop, this time in Frederick. He previously made the trip to Harpers Ferry to see her boutique, but noted the shorter distance made it much easier to visit Burnside and see the revamped shop.

“This (space) is a little bigger,” Cook said. “I like it better. Definitely more foot traffic.”

Brittany Grimes, who worked at the shop next to La Niche Boutique in Harpers Ferry before the fire, said she was excited to see the boutique up and running again, especially near her new place of work.

Not too long after the three-alarm fire severely damaged Tenfold Fair Trade Gifts and Crafts in Harpers Ferry, where Grimes had worked, the New Market native returned to Frederick County. She now works at the Frederick Coffee Company, a short walk from Burnside’s boutique - just like old times, she said.

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Information from: The Frederick (Md.) News-Post, https://www.fredericknewspost.com

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