Business owners Deanna Whissell and Laura Cornale are moving on after a May 15 fire in White Rock made their building uninhabitable.

Businesses rise from Five Corners ashes

Arson claims building but not entrepreneurial spirit in White Rock

It’s mid-morning Monday in the once-bustling White Rock neighbourhood of Five Corners, and the streets are quiet.

Laura Cornale walks along a quiet sidewalk where blue construction fence separates her and what’s left of Laura’s Coffee Corner – the popular coffee shop she owned for six years.

Cornale isn’t sure where to look.

“I try not to come this way anymore,” she told Peace Arch News. “It’s just too much.”

Three months after a massive fire ripped through Ocean Ridge – a building that housed nearly 100 residents and several street-front shops – some businesses are reappearing on the Semiahmoo Peninsula.

The May 15 fire broke out around 5 a.m. at a construction site immediately south of Ocean Ridge, extensively damaging the building. Investigators determined arson as the cause and have yet to announce charges.

Since then, Ocean Ridge has been surrounded by caution tape, and more recently, construction fencing. Crews have completely removed the top floor of the four-storey building, and have gutted the other floors as part of the rebuilding. It’s expected to be at least two years before the project is finished.

Cornale, 42, is still angry an arsonist managed to shutter her coffee shop – now a temporary lunchroom for construction workers – but she’s moving on. In November she’ll re-open in a space across the street currently occupied by J&H Food Market. The market’s longtime operator, the Soo family, plans to retire this fall and offered Cornale the location.

“I’m lucky to have found a space now,” she said. “It’s in the same area – I love this area – and I’m really thankful for (the Soo family) to do that for me.”

Cornale decided to look elsewhere after a June meeting with Oceanridge owners and the restoration team made it clear reconstruction was a long road. She said the meeting allowed her to say goodbye.

“I’m not coming back here. I can’t come back here. I have to move on. Two years is too long. I’ll lose all my customers.”

Deanna Whissell, owner of Vanilla Clothing, found a new location for her boutique inside another store, House Warmings in Elgin Corners at 14016 32 Ave.

“We didn’t waste a lot of time,” she said. “You can’t do that in business – they forget about you.”

In the first week following the fire, three business owners who participate in Vanilla Clothing’s shopping tours offered her space.

“I was pretty blown away by that generosity,” she said. “We ended up at House Warmings – the best location and space offering for what we needed at the time.”

Now Vanilla Clothing has 300 square feet inside the home decor store.

“For now, we are just so happy to be back in business.”

In May, both Whissell and Cornale were quick to come to the aid of Ocean Ridge residents who could do little but watch their homes burn. Whissell played a key role in organizing a fire relief centre at First United Church, where individuals and businesses donated a host of items to meet residents’ immediate needs. Cornale, meanwhile, spearheaded an online fundraising campaign for residents, raising $20,000.

Said Whissell: “It was the least we could do for our customers and our friends.”

Other Ocean Ridge business owners are also getting back on their feet. Moe Toufic lost his Pacific Barber Shop in the fire, but he’s continuing his craft across the street at Sin 7 Salon, which opened one of its salon chairs to the barber. His three-days-per-week schedule will increase to four next month.

The fire also forced the closure of Madison Five Fashions across the street due to smoke damage. But signs plastered on its windows assure customers it’s re-opening soon.

Other businesses are still searching for space, including Puretone Hearing Clinic, which had opened at Ocean Ridge just two weeks before the fire.

Another, Releaf Compassion Centers, already had a Langley location before the fire, and owner Tara Caine said she’s awaiting the outcome of upcoming federal rulings on marijuana dispensaries before considering a new location on the Peninsula.

In the meantime, Cornale is preparing for a relaunch, and hopes the Five Corners neighbourhood will return to its vibrant self soon.

Said Cornale: “It’ll come back. It has to come back.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Surrey addictions officials say pandemic funding is wreaking havoc on those in recovery

Governments’ kindness taking its toll, recovery operators say

Influx of cross-border visitors to Peace Arch Park sparks concern COVID-19 could spike

Police, parks officials say patrols, education and signage have all been increased

Barn catches fire in Surrey

Fire department says ‘pressurized containers’ inside the structure

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

What June 1 will look like at Surrey schools

High school students following a ‘tutorial model’ where they sign up through a set schedule of times

Only four new COVID-19 cases, 228 active across B.C.

Health officials watching as activities ramp up

Feds looking at ways to reunite families amid COVID-19 border restrictions with U.S.

Some families with members of dual-citizenship have become separated due to the pandemic

Condition in kids with possible COVID-19 link being studied in Canada

This month, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an alert to doctors about MIS-C

‘I knew what he wanted’: Kootenay man spends hours in tree as black bear patrols below

Francis Levasseur is no stranger to the outdoors, but a recent run-in with a bear caused quite a scare

COVID cancelled their wedding plans, so they married on a BC mountaintop

Ceremony was live streamed to friends and family around the world

Trudeau acknowledges racial unrest in U.S.; ‘We also have work to do in Canada’

‘Anti-black racism, racism, is real; it’s in the United States, but it’s also in Canada,’ Trudeau says

State of Local Emergency declared for Boundary as communities brace for river flooding

Warm weather and heavy rain could cause sections of Kettle River system to swell beyond 2018 levels

Large cruise ships barred from Canadian waters until end of October: Garneau

Last year 140 cruise ships brought more than two million visitors to Canadian ports

Minneapolis cop who knelt on man’s neck charged with murder

Arrest comes after three days of protests, which escalated in violence as demonstrators torched a police precinct

Most Read

l -->