A Family Business Making a Comeback After the Flood
Many small businesses were heavily damaged by the catastrophic flood that hit Columbia in October 2015. Working through a mass of forms from insurance companies, FEMA, the Small Business Administration and others, some are beginning to dig their way out toward recovery.
Forest Lake Fabrics is one of these. Founded 52 years ago in the old Forest Lake Shopping Center by the grandfather of present owner Michael Marsha, it has been in its current location on Forest Drive for more than two decades.
Checking on the store throughout the night of Oct. 4, Marsha found it okay at 12:30, 1:30 and 2:30 a.m. Officials informed him that the upper and lower Rocky Fork dams had broken, and that he shouldn’t return that night for his safety.
"I know I took it on the chin, but life will go on and we will survive. A good friend of mine said 'out of disaster, greatness will come'."
The next morning at 7, he couldn’t get near his building for the water. “I went over across the street to Starbucks, looked back across the street, and saw about eight feet of water in the building,” he said. “So I knew it was gonna be ‘start over.’”
He has started over, with the help of neighbors, and even strangers, who helped clean out the devastated business – saving him an estimated $100,000 in labor costs – and his daughter, Stephanie, who moved back to Columbia from Atlanta to help get the family business back on its feet.
A red sofa had been thrust through the front door by the rushing water, which tore through the rear of the store and blew out the front windows, taking roughly $1 million in stock with it. “My wife had sold that Friday and the lady was coming Monday to pick it up.” Marsha laughed. “Wonder if she still wants it?”
Mud-soaked bolts of cloth were found 500 yards downstream, Marsha said.
Marsha not only had a ruined store, but his home sustained some, but not huge, damage. For his family who live near Lake Catherine, however, it was worse. “I have two sisters that live on Milford,” said Marsha. ”One got flooded bad, about three feet. The other got a little damage, but they were rescuing people from her house.” Of his two nieces who live nearby, one had some damage, and the other will have to tear her house down.
The cloth merchant remains philosophical. “When I found out they were safe, everything was okay. You can always buy more fabric. I know I took it on the chin, but life will go on and we will survive. A good friend of mine said ‘out of disaster, greatness will come,’” Marsha said, laughing. “And I’m gonna believe it as long as I can.”
Forest Lake Fabrics reopened in January in temporary quarters two doors east of its original location. Marsha hopes to be back in the main store by May.