Community rallies after fire destroys garden center
TYRONE, Pa. — Admiring the beauty and fragrance of the spring display in his showroom on Tuesday, April 12, 2018, at 9:20 p.m. Daniel Martin praised his workers, “Everything’s looking really nice.”
He then left for his home nearby.
At 10:10 p.m. his neighbor called — the garden center was on fire.
Seeing the red flames from his home just up the hill, Martin dashed down to the scene. “The closer I got, the more my heart sank,” he recalls. When he reached the site at 10:15 p.m., the fire was fully engaged.
The Alexandria and Tyrone fire companies were the first of the five volunteer fire companies that responded.
The main retail building — the showroom with its contents — three greenhouses, and the warehouse were destroyed. Two more greenhouses, a mass of nursery plants, a new loader, and lots of sale items such as the gazebo were damaged. Most were beyond salvage or repair.
The cause was undetermined.
The buildings but not the inventory was insured.
The community pulled together for Martin and his family. An average of 30 friends, neighbors and local church parishioners volunteered per day for the entire week. They cleaned the debris, picked out anything salvageable and erected the showroom. Plus, Martin’s vendors also worked overtime to help him restock and gave him a price break.
Miraculously and thanks to the volunteers, Martin’s Garden Center was able to reopen just days later on Saturday.
Martin says the garden center still has not totally come back from starting all over again. However, the business has been quick to adapt and some changes have proven to be favorable. The new showroom is more open, which customers enjoy. The shoppers also like browsing through the other buildings and greenhouses to view the entire multiple assortments of bedding plants such as large racks of impatiens — rather than the samplings in the main selling area.
The pre-fire greenhouse showroom had three bays. Some of the frame was usable, and it has been altered to two but it is now larger due to extending more toward the rear of the long rectangular shape.
The inventory loss amounted to about $100,000. Specimen plants and trees within fifty feet of the inferno were scorched or injured by the heat. Some that were able to be trimmed or scavenged were sold for an amount such as $5 for a $60 item. Displays and containers were similarly deeply discounted.
Martin’s Garden Center won the local Altoona Mirror newspaper “Hometown Favorites” award in their category for 2019.
The garden center draws on patrons from long distances as well as local customers for its bedding plants, produce, lawn furniture, mulch, nursery and landscape supplies. Local crafts and food products augment their offerings. Their showroom decorations plus their imaginative attractions on Rt. 453 near Tyrone bring joy to their holiday and seasonal displays.