Abilene business owner bounces back one year after fire destroys building

Butternut St. businesses damaged in fire doing well

ABILENE, Texas - It has been exactly one year since an early morning fire devastated two Abilene businesses and a church near South 7th and Butternut Street.

Twelve months later, what sparked the devastating blaze remains a mystery.

Abilene Fire Department spokesman Lt. Greg Goettsch said the exact cause of the fire has not been determined.

However, firefighters did respond to another fire just down the street around the same time on the same date – and that fire was caused by a lightning strike.

Fire officials haven't ruled out the possibility that lightening could have played a part. They do know the fire started in the attic near the electrical box.

Carolina Upholstery, The Mission Good Samaritan and 5-D Custom Hats and Leather lost everything.

"It's been a long year, but we're just trying to step back and think of all the positives that come from it," said Damon Albus, who owns 5-D Custom Hats and Leather with his wife, Donna.

Albus said the disaster was unthinkable.

"Fire's not gonna happen to me. It happens to the guys you see on the news," Albus said. "And then when I drove up on it, it was 'Wow, it really is me.'"

Since then, the business has moved to a new building at 517 Oak St. which the family bought in April and has slowly been rebuilding lost stock, from sources across the country.

"We've found machines in Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, Colorado and got one piece here and one piece there and blended it altogether to make it work for us," Albus said.

Albus credits his wife for getting back in the game after the fire.

"Where a lot of disasters will tear a family apart, it just grew us closer together," Albus said.

Only two items survived the fire: a machine and a rack of leather tools.

5-D Custom Hats and Leather started at the Butternut location 16 years ago and spent 15 years there before the building burned to the ground.

Now, the business is looking ahead to the future. They received the first insurance check from the fire just more than a month ago.

"The sky's the limit," Albus said.

Carolina Upholstery has moved further north down Butternut.

Mission Good Samaritan is no longer operating out of Abilene. Lydia Rodriquez, former pastor of the church, now helps at a church in Sweetwater. The one-year anniversary of the fire is also her 73rd birthday.

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