HANFORD — As you walk into Salmon’s Furniture in downtown Hanford you are welcomed by a brick water fountain, but what you may not know is that fountain is made from bricks that were recovered when the previous building burned down.
“This is all we have left of the old store,” owner Craig Johnson said.
It was July 10, 2001, coming off one if its best-selling years and in the throes of an expensive remodel, that Salmon’s Furniture Galleries, a 35,000 square-foot store at 112 E. Seventh St., caught fire
“Business was unbelievable,” Johnson said. “Ten days after the biggest year we had ever, we were [down] to the ground.”
New carpet, awnings and a nearly-completed new roof were set ablaze after sparks from a worker’s saw caught the ceiling on fire and eventually spread to the whole store, filled with mattresses and other furniture.
Johnson said there was nothing left of the building. Still, it took the insurance companies three months to declare it a “total loss,” he said; not the mention the money he had already put into the remodel that would never be recuperated.
“It probably took about five to 10 years of my life away,” Johnson said. “If you think these things are easy, they’re not.”
Johnson said the store went from being on top of the world to essentially having nothing; but that didn’t stop him.
He said by the next week he secured a temporary location, set some desks up and he and his 17 employees went to work in a 2,500-square-foot customer service center, making sure orders kept coming in and were delivered.
“Customers were great,” Johnson said. “We had a good, loyal customer base. We’re blessed; you don’t get that by accident. I believe that we got it because of how we treated people, the quality of products we sold and how [customers] were treated if they had a problem.”
The store now even has two brick walls dedicated to customers who spent over $10,000 while Salmon’s was at the temporary location.
Going through this type of ordeal would be tough for even the most seasoned business owner, but Johnson, who started working for Salmon’s in 1983 and came to an arrangement with the previous owners to buy the store in 1990, said he wouldn’t let himself lose his vision.
“I had to endure,” Johnson said. “I had employees that needed jobs, and I told them that we were going to figure this out.”
Despite insurance issues and the city having to sign off on building plans, 20 months later, on March 15, 2003, Salmon's new building had its grand reopening.
When Johnson says that he and the people that work at Salmon’s are family, he means it. Several employees still work there today that worked there when the fire broke out.
Tracy Greenlee, office manager, said how she felt on the day of the fire is still hard to explain. She said when the fire alarm went off, employees just thought there was a small issue and didn’t believe there was a problem until they saw the flames.
“We were all just in absolute disbelief,” Greenlee said. “It was a strange feeling.”
Employees even showed up to work the next day, still unsure of what to do exactly, Greenlee said.
After the temporary location was set up, Greenlee said everything went as back to normal as it possibly could given the circumstances. She said it was Johnson’s determination and passion for the business that kept everything and everyone going.
“This is his life; there was no question that he was going to rebuild,” Greenlee said, adding the store is still going strong.
“My belief is your success or failure is based on who you surround yourself with, and we have good people here,” Johnson said.
Johnson’s hope for the future is that the company continues providing quality products and meeting the customers’ needs with a knowledgeable staff.
“We’re very proud of this store,” Johnson said.
Having a brick and mortar furniture store is a challenge nowadays with the popularity of online shopping, but Johnson and his staff continue to do what they’ve always done and move forward.
“Salmon’s will be here for a long time,” Greenlee said.