Fire destroys landmark store

Fire took The Malibu Colony Company early last Thursday morning, also destroying a portion of neighboring TraDiNoi restaurant. By mid-day, the charred structures were being torn down and the store’s employees, many looking shocked and weepy, were operating out of the Colony Co.’s neighboring annex, while cards, baskets of flowers and snacks, and offers of food and shelter began arriving.

Responding to a 3:19 a.m. report of a structure fire, signaled by a heat detector, the county fire department dispatched five engines, one paramedic squad, one truck company, one patrol and one battalion chief to the scene. One firefighter was injured, said Mark Whaling, public information officer for the L.A. County Fire Department.

By Friday, the Sheriff’s Arson Detail was still investigating the origin and cause of the fire but said it did not appear to be arson related. While no one would specifically point to a cause, sources indicated it was likely electrical.

The fire singed neighboring shrubbery several shops away. As visitors to the store noted, had the fire occurred the following morning, when strong winds were gusting, the results would have been even more disastrous.

Greg Kozak, property manager for The Malibu Country Mart stores, said repair and rebuilding work began immediately. The new Colony Co. building is currently being designed by a local architect.

Kozak said the city of Malibu is requiring a complete overhaul of the electrical system at TraDiNoi, but Kozak is filing for a Temporary Conditional Use Permit so the restaurant can operate under a tent on its patio area. Kozak expects the restaurant to be operational, “at a real stretch, in two weeks to a month.”

The Malibu Colony Co. store was 100 percent destroyed, said Kozak. While damage to TraDiNoi was not considered “total,” Kozak said, its roof and the common wall with the store were called a total loss, its floor was destroyed by excessive water, the air conditioning system was “roasted” and it suffered smoke damage.

Kozak was notified of the fire at 5 a.m. by a “911” page from the sheriff’s department. He said he took off down Pacific Coast Highway, where he was stopped and ticketed for speeding by an LAPD officer, despite showing his pager to the officer.

Friends and co-workers had tried to reach Tina Nicholls, manager of The Malibu Colony Co., but she had changed her telephone number. The Fire Department, which had recently visited the premises to update its records, had her new number and telephoned her at 6 a.m., informing her of the fire and asking her to come to the premises.

“He said, ‘Drive carefully,'” Nicholls recalled. “I put the phone down, threw on some jeans and ran out. My husband drove. All the way, I kept thinking, ‘It’s probably just one part.’ I drove up and saw the empty shell. That was it for me.”

For customers who had placed orders prior to the fire, The Colony Co. is shipping inventory from its Laguna store or providing refunds, at the customer’s option. Shipments of new items are still arriving, including orders placed earlier in the fall.

As for employees, Nicholls said, “They’re all staying with me. They’re all going to get paid.

“It took a tragedy like this to let us know Malibu people are good people. Flowers keep arriving, people keep calling. People have offered their houses. They’ve sent in food and food vouchers. People are coming in and buying, just for the sake of buying — cards, little things.” She keeps the community’s sympathy notes in the annex’s fireproof safe.

13StarsManager
13StarsManagerhttps://malibutimes.com
The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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