Flint, MI — Though no one was injured in last week’s Buckham Alley fire, the businesses that call the 500 block home are still hurting.

Walter McAdow, owner of Flint Trading Co., said he spent nearly $1,000 on cleaning supplies this week, sharing pictures that show grey stains on his showroom walls and the contrast between a soot-darkened area rug and the clean wood floor underneath.

McAdow had only moved into the building in September 2020, hoping to make it easier for visitors to socially distance while shopping. Now, less than a year in and dealing with damage to one-of-a-kind inventory, he says his bank told him they won’t offer a loan because he cannot prove a profit. “But I’m a jewelry store, all my earnings are in the last quarter,” McAdow said, referring to the regular upward spike in retail jewelry sales that comes during the U.S. holiday season.

While McAdow is unable to open as he assesses and reconditions the jewelry, art, and fascinator hats in his store, he is finding support from his neighbors at Comma Books & Social Hub.

Dorian Jackson and Egypt Otis, owners of Comma, will be hosting McAdow during the upcoming 810 Day–Tuesday, August 10—for people to bring jewelry for inspection and cleaning services. They’ve suggested a $5 donation for McAdow’s services, with all proceeds going toward helping Flint Trading Co. cover post-fire expenses. 

“We love Flint and know they would do the same for us,” said Jackson of why he and Otis decided to open up their store to their business’s neighbors. “We are a family of entrepreneurs.”

After the fire, barber Dwayne Harrington Sr. moved his operation across the road to Aristotle’s Barber and Beauty Supply.

Harrington, who prefers to go by his business’s name “Wayne the Barber,” and his wife Tiana Harrington said their first concern was making sure their 10th annual Back to School Rally would go on.

 “We were like, ‘Oh my God, how are we going to do haircuts? Where can this even happen?’” said Ms. Harrington.

The event—which features backpack and school supply giveaways, along with free haircuts for K-12 students—will now be hosted between Buckham Alley and Wayne the Barber’s new space at Aristotle’s.

Storefronts of Flint Trading Co., MagnifiClips, and Comma Books & Social Hub on Aug 6, 2021. (Kate Stockrahm | Flint Beat)

“From the bottom of my heart,” said Harrington, “the people of downtown Flint are very supportive of each other.” He said that despite the difficult circumstances, “it was delightful to stand back and see everybody hustling and bustling to make sure all the people who were victims of fire were aided and supported.”

Wayne the Barber formerly worked out of MagnifiClips, the barbershop sandwiched between Flint Trading Co. and Comma Books. Owner and barber Tim Tyler decided to keep working through the damage on his own.

“We were fortunate, though,” said Tyler of his shop, which is operable but not without damage.

Tyler’s waiting area sports black mats attached to green and yellow vacuum tubes. The tubes connect to an “Injectidry” machine further back in the shop. The machine operates at a steady hum, trying to save the space’s hardwood floors a week after the fire.  

Aside from the drying mats, the shop looks relatively like it did. There are a few light fixtures that still need to be fixed and some water damage on the ceiling, but nothing the average customer would look up and notice.

Tyler said he’s grateful his shop could reopen so quickly, but he is still concerned his barber stations may warp from water damage and that insurance may not cover cleaning or replacing some of his barber chairs, a few of which were still unused.

The cause of the fire which affected Flint Trading Co., Comma Books & Social Hub, Wayne the Barber, MagnifiClips, artist Tim Kranz, and building owners Gary and Terry Gebhardt remains unconfirmed.

Flint Fire Department Battalion Chief Mike Kovach said the matter has since been referred to Michigan State Police investigator who will be working with the Gebhardt’s insurance provider.

Kate Stockrahm

Kate is Flint Beat's business and nonprofit reporter. She joins the team as a corps member of Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered...

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