Fire razes Kansas antique shop; consignors declare total loss

By Tamara Beardsley – Antique Trader Associate Editor

NORTON, Kan. – A July 24 fire completely destroyed two buildings in downtown Norton, Kan., causing a total loss to Route 36 Antiques and Collectibles. At the time of the blaze, the antique-shop premises also were being used as a temporary residence for the shop’s owners and their son. The fire broke out around 3:30 in the afternoon, in a building used by the Norton Archery Club. It then spread to the adjacent antique shop.

Local antique dealer Ada Arford happened to be near the area when the fire occurred. She said flames were shooting from the roof of the archery club building, “then there was a slight wind, and everything went up immediately.” According to local news reports and other sources, more than 90 volunteer firefighters responded from Norton and neighboring communities to battle flames that shot 80 feet into the air. The resulting black smoke filled the town, adding to the misery of a 98-degree day. The fire was extinguished the next day, leaving behind a glaring gap in the profile of this small town of 3,017 people.

“There is nothing there but a hole in the ground, now – a pile of bricks where the two buildings were, and that’s about it,” Arford said. A week after the incident, the cause of the fire had not yet been determined.

Arford and her husband, John, own Arford Antiques, but they also had a variety of items consigned to Route 36 Antiques and Collectibles, including postcards, pine furniture, jewelry, turn of the 20th century quilts and linens, and refinished shipping boxes, with an estimated total value of $22,000. Arford said they had limited insurance on their consigned antiques, and will only be compensated $250 through homeowners insurance.

She said the types of antiques sold in the store ran the gamut, from high-end to “almost garage-sale-type stuff.” The merchandise was owned by a variety of consignors, as well as the shop owners. She noted that one consignor, from Denver, had probably three to four times what the Arfords did in inventory value. “He had some really high-quality antiques – a lot of pottery – in probably five or six spaces in the store.”

The owners of the shop, Lee and Siobhan Hanes, who according to Alford moved to Norton from Florida approximately five months ago, could not be reached for comment. Arford said she was uncertain of their plans, but surmised they had other business ventures and would not likely rebuild the antique store.

Despite their loss, the Arfords are taking a positive view on the situation. “My husband’s father had a phrase: ‘It’s only money,’” said Arford. “You have to take that attitude on something like this. Just fighting the fire was a real trauma that day. We’re lucky there were no firemen hurt and that the owners got out immediately.

“You can always go out and replace your things … even the old things I guess.”