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Prominent Reclaimed Wood Shop Lost to Fire, Owners Determined in Face of Devastation

Contact: Greg Conrad, 540-327-6369


FRONT ROYAL, Va., May 8, 2017 /Christian Newswire/ -- The Strong Oaks Woodshop, a homespun startup manufacturer of handmade reclaimed wood furniture, was lost to a three-alarm fire on the night of Saturday, April 29th. The blaze destroyed tens of thousands of dollars in tools and inventory, and threatened the lives of three people inside the building. Despite the business's precarious situation, the owners, with the support of the wider community, are passionately committed to rebuilding.


Grown from a small garage shop that eventually came to furnish prominent restaurants, wineries, hotels and more, the Strong Oaks Woodshop has impacted such notable brands as Marriott, Hyatt, Bold Rock Hard Cider and Gentle Harvest. That was all brought to a sudden and disastrous halt by the fire, which left nothing standing except the historic shop's stone walls.


"I was working on my computer when I heard a clattering noise in the shop and went to check it out," said John Schmiedicke, business partner and metal shop supervisor who was living with his wife and infant daughter in the attached one bedroom apartment. "I saw a fire that was already too big to contain, so I ran back to wake up my wife, and we had just enough time to get out with the clothes on our backs."


"We'd only moved in 36 hours before," added Nicole Schmiedicke, "and hadn't even finished unpacking. We had a brand-new bed we spent one night in. We're tremendously grateful to be safe, but it's hard losing your home and your business all at once."


By the time firefighters arrived at the scene, the building was almost completely engulfed. It took until the following morning to contain the blaze, and crews monitored the smoldering ruins for two days afterwards. While no one was injured, the fire claimed all the shop's equipment, finished product, and huge inventory of reclaimed wood. According to the fire marshal, the cause of the fire is still undetermined, though they have ruled out arson.


"'While our insurance may eventually cover much of the equipment and material losses," said Mike Schmiedicke, owner of Strong Oaks, "it cannot even begin to address our irreplaceable, utterly unique inventory of lumber we'd salvaged by hand over the years. Some of that lumber was from trees that went extinct over 100 years ago. All this is in addition to the lost jobs of our people if we can't get them back to work. We are rebuilding, and the help of our friends and supporters is what's making that happen."


"We're committed to rebuilding," added John Hepler, Strong Oaks business partner, "but it will take everyone's help to make that a reality. We have a GoFundMe page, and our Facebook will be regularly updated with the different ways people can get involved. In the meantime, we're borrowing tools and garages and continuing to fill orders. We are still making furniture, so send the orders our way."