The Frederick News-Post, Md.
A devastating fire that wiped out Veronica Burnside’s business in downtown Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, this past summer didn’t dampen her entrepreneurial spirit.
The Frederick native picked up the pieces from the ashes — which was literally just a bird cage — and reopened her business for the second time in a year.
This time, however, Burnside started anew in Frederick, and La Niche Boutique now takes up a 1,100-square-foot space on Shab Row.
We like this feel-good story recently reported by Frederick News-Post reporter Paige Jones because it exemplifies the determination of the first-generation American (her parents emigrated from Hungary in 1956) when facing a major crossroads in life.
But first, to back up a bit, Burnside first tried to open a shop in Frederick more than 20 years ago after she was laid off from a tenured position as a graphic designer in Hagerstown. But she couldn’t work out the details and soon went back to her graphic career.
Burnside said she never gave up her dream of owning her own business, so a year ago, on Oct. 1, 2014, she opened La Niche Boutique in Harpers Ferry’s downtown historic district.
Things were humming along just fine until that horrific night of July 23, when a three-alarm fire roared through four buildings that housed two apartments and eight businesses, including Burnside’s boutique.
“I got a phone call at 6 a.m. from my landlord saying, ‘Your shop’s gone,'” Burnside told The News-Post. “I was in disbelief. But there it was — the shop was gone.”
The buildings were condemned and the fire marshal’s office ruled Burnside’s boutique was unsafe to enter. Her entire inventory was wiped out except for a bird cage that now holds business cards in her new shop in Frederick.
She thought — just briefly — of giving up her dream again.
“As a business owner, you’re never really prepared for something that … catastrophic,” she said. “So many emotions flooded my day-to-day thinking that there was one point I was going to fold.”
But she didn’t.
She slowly rebuilt her inventory of soaps, candles, jewelry, hair items, clothing and knickknacks during the summer, and with the help of family and friends (and her insurance company) she started anew in Frederick.
She opened her new shop at 134 N. East St. on Oct. 1 — exactly one year to the day she first opened in Harpers Ferry.
“It was actually just an interesting coincidence,” Burnside said in a telephone interview several days ago. “I looked at my husband and I said, ‘Do you realize it was the same day that we opened up the first time last year?’ We just looked at each other. Strange. It was weird.”
We know there are many other stories similar to Burnside’s of entrepreneurs battling adversity to achieve their version of the American Dream.
But occasionally it’s nice to sit back and reflect on how wonderful it is to live in a country where anything is possible. If you can dream it, you can do it, with enough determination and perseverance. Just ask Veronica Burnside.