Back in the kettle: Fudge making is first sign of Darby’s return from fire
Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 11, 2014
NATCHEZ — The fudge kettle at Darby’s didn’t stay cold for long.
Three days after flames filled the third floor of the Main Street gift store, Darby’s Gifts and Decorative Accessories employee Joey Gunning was mixing up 36 pounds of the sweet treat Monday morning.
As insurance adjusters and cleaning crews worked inside the building, Gunning was making several batches of vanilla caramel and tiger butter fudge.
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The pans of fudge cooling in the cabinet are just one sign that store owners Dennis and Darby Short are determined to revive the store after Friday’s fire.
“We will be back,” Darby said.
Darby said that each year her store gives free fudge to veterans who come by and visit her store on Veterans Day. Despite the fire, that tradition will continue today.
“We will have the fudge ready for our veterans. That will not stop,” Darby said.
Darby said the last few days have been overwhelming, not only because of the fire, but also because of the many people who have donated money and offered support. Many people who came from out of town just to come to her store and were disappointed when it was closed, demonstrated how much people loved the store.
“It has been humbling and inspiring,” Darby said. “It is the one thing that gives me the strength and the drive to get back in.”
Damage to the store was substantial, Darby said.
The third floor sustained most of the fire damage. Charred remains of Christmas decorations, spools of ribbon, wooden crates and display shelves were left scattered in the space. A thick layer of soot covered nearly every surface.
The second and third floor suffered extensive water and smoke damage. Water from the hoses used to put out the fire filled decorative platters and dishes on both floors.
“It was literally raining inside the building after the fire department left,” Dennis Short said. “You had to use an umbrella.”
Despite the fire, the Shorts say the building is intact. Fire crews opened one hole in the roof, but that will be repaired.
“Structurally we are fine,” Darby said. “The windows (on the third floor) are toast.”
The cause of the fire, which started on the third floor, has yet to be determined Darby said.
Insurance adjusters visited the building to examine the damage to the store and merchandise Monday. Until they receive a report for the adjusters, the Shorts say they will not know exactly what the next steps for getting the store back up and running are.
Meanwhile, Dennis and Darby have opened a temporary store three stores down on Main Street in the Benoist Building at 420 Main Street.
The store is filled with rugs, clothing, shoes and other merchandise that were recued from the fire Friday.
Darby said she realizes how much work it will take to bring the store back to what is was before the fire. Even still, they feel optimistic and blessed.
“This is all just a pause in time,” Darby said. “It could have been much worse than it was.”