A fire, first reported at about 4 a.m. on July 5, gutted the Tahoe City Kayak building in Tahoe City, Calif., destroying everything inside. The fire took six fire engines to extinguish. The Placer County sheriff's department is now looking for individuals who burglarized the shop, and then set it on fire, probably to cover their tracks.
Owner Andrew Laughlin, who purchased the 9-year-old retail business in December 2005, told SNEWS® that his employees spent Wednesday afternoon and evening sifting through the debris of the ruined shop to see if there was anything to be salvaged. But there's not much left.
"Having this happen at what is, really, the beginning of our season is a very tough thing, but we're managing," said Laughlin.
He estimated that he lost over $50,000 in merchandise, although because all his computers and records were burned, sorting out the exact loss is going to be a challenge.
"We had 28 boats, all sorts of paddlesport accessories, sunglasses -- it's quite a mess," said Laughlin.
Fortunately, because his rental and tour business wasn't affected, he's not as bad of as he might have been. His trucks, trailers and rental boats were not damaged in the blaze.
In fact the day after the blaze, Laughlin was busy helping rental customers load boats against the backdrop of a charred and still smoldering building.
What has made Laughlin most grateful, though, is the outpouring of community support.
"It is amazing and very gratifying, all the support," Laughlin told us. "We've had locals drive up in trucks and without being asked, just get out of their trucks, grab a shovel and start helping with the clean up. The Downtown Association is putting on a fund-raiser for us. The local Radio Shack gave me a phone to use, and Albertsons hooked us up with a large tent to set up in our parking lot and conduct business out of."
Tahoe City Kayak, which operates as 9 Lives Consignment selling used ski and snowboard equipment during the winter, already has a new retail location lined up. Now, said Laughlin, he just needs his vendors to be as flexible as possible with extra dating, extended terms and more, so he can be stocked and open for business as quickly as possible.
"We move between 200 and 300 boats during July and August, and are one of Hobie's biggest national accounts, so I am counting on that support to keep the sales up, doors open and lights on," said Laughlin.
A July 12 report in the local Tahoe paper noted that Christian Tourville, a 37-year-old from Tahoma, and Andrew Pellissier, a 19-year-old from Tahoe City, were booked and in jail after El Dorado County and Placer County sheriff's department investigators tied them to a crime spree in the Tahoe area, possibly including the break-in and arson at Tahoe City Kayak.