FARMVILLE — After a Dec. 29 fire destroyed his business, Farmville resident Travis Fletcher said he is seeking to rebuild.
Fletcher opened East Carolina Coating & Design at 2090 Randolph Court, Greenville, in 2010 and had built it into a successful company.
That all went up in smoke about 6:30 p.m. on Dec. 29, when a fire started that engulfed the structure.
“I left — and the funny thing is, I never leave that early,” Fletcher said. “This one night I thought I would leave early and went home at a normal time for the first time ever.”
Fletcher made a stop at the grocery store and while there, he received a call from a tenant informing him of the blaze.
“He said, ‘I think the shop is on fire. The electric box was making a sound and there are flames coming off the roof,’” Fletcher said.
“When I pulled up, the fire companies were just getting there and it was already gone. It was completely ablaze.”
Firefighters are unsure what started of the fire, Fletcher said.
“They dumped water on it for a solid hour. They had to have trucks keep bringing in water,” Fletcher said.
“It was absolutely devastating,” he said. “I just kind of stood there. I got there when the fireman just started putting water on it. I stood there by myself and watched everything I worked for disappear. I was numb. I was on auto-pilot. A lot of people came by. I had a lot of people I know coming out there asking me if I was okay.”
Fletcher said he felt helpless.
“There is nothing you can do,” he said. “The feeling of absolute helplessness and watching as so much of everything you busted your tail for your entire life disappears.”
Along with the tools, machinery and other items related to the business, the building also included housing for an employee.
“I had just built him an apartment in the shop,” Fletcher said. “He was living there. When I met him three years ago he was homeless and had substance abuse problem. I found him and with worked him a little. I got him off the street. He went to rehab and has been clean for years. He absolutely lost everything in the fire.”
Fletcher said the employee has since moved into his home.
Making matters worse, Fletcher did not have fire insurance on the building.
“I had let the insurance lapse a few months ago because I wanted to get another policy. I was waiting until the start of the year,” he said. “It was Murphy’s Law. It happened at the worst time possible.”
Despite the loss, Fletcher plans to rebuild and is looking for new location.
“I hope I can get back to doing what I loved and I hope I can recover from this devastating loss and keep going like I was going,” Fletcher said.
His decision to rebuild has been strengthened by an outpouring of community support for him and his finance, Jaime Marcum.
A Go Fund Me page was created in their honor and $12,997 has been raised to help rebuild the business.
“It’s pretty awesome,” Fletcher said. “Originally I was against the Go Fund Me Page, but I had a lot of people reach out. They were asking me the same night as the fire.
“At first I thought no. I’m not one to ever ask for help. I have a hard time accepting help. I thought it was not an option.”
As more and more people began offering their assistance, Fletcher relented and accepted a request from Marcum’s best friend, Kari Johnson, to create the page.
“It blows me away. I can’t believe it.,” he said. “As soon as she posted it, we had a couple thousand dollars. I started sending thank yous and it kept growing. People were coming out of the woodwork.
“It’s been extremely heartwarming and nice. I’m feeling the love from all that,” Fletcher said, adding high school classmates he hasn’t seen in 20 years have also donated to the page.
The show of community support is a reflection of Fletcher and Marcum’s character, according to Johnson.
“They are truly genuinely kind and good people who are natural-born helpers who have helped more people and animals than can be counted,” Johnson said on the fundraising page. “Much of the kindness and generosity they have shown to so many over the years is only known to those they’ve shown it to, as they go about helping others quietly.
“Their kindness has been displayed countless times,” Johnson said, “showing up as an unexpected gift sent to someone in need, dropping everything on a dime to lend assistance, Travis routinely undercharging customers or Jaime’s enormous passion for helping helpless animals. These things are just what they do and who they are.”
To contribute to the Go Fund Me Page visit https://gofund.me/397973a4 or search Help ECCD Rebuild After Fire.