Fire can't stop this Burbank business

Richard Raad was running on the treadmill when he heard the news, and for a split second, he thought it was a bad joke.

When he realized the call was no joke, Raad raced to his car and drove down to the carpet and flooring business he's had for decades

He found it engulfed in flames.

Decades worth of contacts, lost. Thousands of floor plans, gone. A brand new showroom, destroyed. Just one of six office computers was salvageable.

PHOTOS: Beauty-Kiss Floor & Window Coverings recovers from fire with home business

The fire that tore through Beauty-Kiss Floor and Window Coverings in Burbank on Memorial Day would ultimately cause an estimated $1 million in damage.

"It's devastating," said Raad, who took over the 63-year-old family business in 1976. "One day you have a business with employees, and the next day you've got a pile of rubble."

It's at this point in the story where most business owners who suffer a near-complete loss would shut down, jobs would be lost, and a long road through insurance claims and recovery might begin.

But not for Raad.

By the next morning, his own Burbank home had become base of operations for his business of 30 employees.

Raad planted camping tables from his motor home in the room where his dogs usually sleep and armed two of his employees with his kids' laptops.

Adrenaline pulsed through his hillside digs Thursday morning, with about a dozen workers manning the phones, loading and unloading trucks and recreating contact lists and floor plans.

Piles of carpet, tile and wood flooring samples were stacked neatly in one corner. Paperwork and invoices were scattered next to the kitchen sink, on which a sticky-note read, "Do not use."

And on the dining-room table, Raad set up a brand new desktop computer and printer.

"Everything's new," said Beauty-Kiss employee Bridget Melloy. "Rulers, pencils, pens, paper, paperclips, notebooks, binders — we didn't even have pens to write with."

Restocking didn't just include office supplies. Carpets and materials that were lost in the blaze — some of it slated for installation this week — also had to be replaced.

"Anything you can think of, we didn't have," Raad said, while fielding phone calls from clients and vendors. "It's financially really ugly, but what do you do? We have nothing."

Whatever was recovered from the fire — wet, crumpled files and charred binders — was stuffed in plastic bags and stacked next to the family's dog kennels in the backyard.

"Everything smells like fire," said Rachel Raad, Richard's 20-year-old daughter.

In all, it's been a huge adjustment for all parties involved.

For Richard Raad's family, the change is especially obvious.

"It's like, your house is not your house anymore," Rachel Raad said.

But it's been a lot to process for the employees, too.

Melloy first heard of the fire via a phone call Monday from Richard Raad's son.

"I said, 'Ha-ha, very funny, Richie,'" Melloy recalled.

Then reality set in.

"I thought, 'Oh my gosh, what's going to happen? Are we going to have jobs? Are we going to have a place to meet?'" said Eldie Garcia, Beauty-Kiss' office manager. "Then my next thought was, 'I need to go down there and help out.'"

Garcia spent Tuesday making calls from the sidewalk next to the rubble, managing and postponing the five projects that had been slated for that day.

The business handles anywhere from 25 to 50 projects every week.

As news of the blaze spread through the community, Raad received an outpouring of support from friends and clients — one even offered Raad temporary use of a vacant warehouse.

But despite the clogged phone lines, ash-covered checkbooks and having to work 11-hour days to keep business operations running, Raad's employees have tried to keep their spirits high.

"We're more than just a flooring company, we're all like family," said Andrea Javage, who has been working at Beauty-Kiss for 16 years. "We've all come together to really just get things done."

As for the intrusion on his personal space, Richard Raad said he's driven by his desire to maintain his business and keep his workers employed.

"They have families to feed and mortgages to pay," he said.


Follow Alene Tchekmedyian on Google+ and on Twitter: @atchek.


Fire damage to Burbank carpet store estimated at $1 million

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