Nfld. & Labrador

Heartbroken business owners reeling after Paradise fire but look to rebuild

Tutoring centre owner Karen Attwood says she'll have to start over.

Tutoring centre owner Karen Attwood says she'll have to start over

Karen Attwood says her Academy for Mathematics & English location in Paradise has been completely destroyed. (Meg Roberts/CBC)

The owners and employees of more than half a dozen businesses in Neil's Pond Plaza in Paradise are picking up the pieces after a major fire that heavily damaged the strip mall Saturday afternoon.

Karen Attwood, the owner of the Academy for Mathematics & English franchise in Newfoundland and Labrador, had just left her Stavanger Drive location when she received the news that her tutoring centre in Paradise was on fire.

"All of a sudden the phone just exploded with calls wondering if everyone was OK and what was happening," she said Monday in an interview with The St. John's Morning Show.

"It was shocking."

Among other businesses, the plaza is also home to a Subway and the Outport Restaurant, which were both severely damaged in the fire.

Moving classes to Stavanger location

Attwood said she's been forced to move all of her current classes to her Stavanger location in the wake of the Paradise centre's indefinite closure.

"My first concern was where do I put these children so that their learning is not disrupted," she said.

"I contacted all my families and we are now running the Paradise classes in the Stavanger Drive office until we find another solution."

This is all that remains of the fire at Neil's Pond Plaza. (Karen Attwood/Facebook)

She surveyed the damage over the weekend, and said she'll have to start from Square 1 at that location.

"My understanding is the roof is gone," said Attwood. "There's nothing left."

In a post shared to Facebook, she promised the Paradise location would be rebuilt..

"I would never remove that school from that location because we service so many families and help so many children achieve their educational goals," said Attwood.

The collapsed after the fire tore through the structure. (Meg Roberts/CBC)

She said she spoke with the owner of the Subway location in the mall and her landlord over the weekend and said they're reeling from the loss as well. 

"Heartbreaking. I haven't had much sleep. Just trying to absorb it all." 

Blow to businesses, workers

Nathan Mitchell was heading out of a tobacco shop in the same plaza when he caught sight of the fire.

"When I opened up the exterior door...I could not see the blue sky in front of me," Mitchell said.

"The black smoke was just billowing down."

Mitchell said he ran inside the Subway to tell employees the building was on fire, then banged on the door of the tutoring business before heading back to Lorraine's Up in Smoke, where he works. 

Nathan Mitchell noticed fire shooting up from the rooftop, and ran to warn employees in the plaza. (CBC)

Seven businesses, including Lorraine's, were damaged.

"There's a lot of people lost their livelihoods," he said. "The Outport, that was a family-owned business ... there's a lot of employees out of work."

The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary is still investigating the cause of the fire, but said they don't believe it to be suspicious at this time. 

There were no injuries. 

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from The St. John's Morning Show and Meg Roberts

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