A longtime dry cleaning business in Columbia went up in flames Thursday night with the owner and a maintenance worker both managing to escape.
"My wife and I have owned it since 1997," said owner of Best Cleaners Chris Shrader. "It's home, so it's hard to look at."
Surveying the damage, Shrader proudly wears a cap reading, "Extreme Makeover Home Edition". For years, his restoration dry cleaning business worked with that show.
"We go into homes and restore their clothes that's been damaged from fire, and we're always there for them," said Shrader.
Now, a man who worked to help others in tragic situations faces a tragedy himself.
"I understand now," said Shrader. "The shoe's on the other foot. It's just tough."
Thursday night, Shrader and a maintenance man were working on a machine at the Pulaski Highway business when something went very wrong.
"The motor had shot some fire and caught a rag or something on fire nearby," Shrader remembered. "It was that fast. We grabbed a fire extinguisher from the front. We had several in the building, and I ran up there and grabbed more fire extinguishers and exhausted those and couldn't stop it."
Shrader was rushed to the hospital over concerns of inhaling smoke. The building is a total loss.
"We have some great employees there, about 12 or 13," said Shrader. "We all met this morning, all cried, and we had a long prayer about everything."
Shrader said just like all the families he's helped in the past, he knows he'll somehow come out of the situation stronger.
He added he's already contacted his insurance agent, and he's planning to rebuild in the same spot as quickly as possible.
Best Cleaners has five drop stores in the area. It was the main plant that burned. Shrader said the employees of that main plant are being moved to other stores.
They'll be opening the building next to their Pulaski Highway location for customers to take their clothes in and out.
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