Picking up the pieces after Mother’s Day blaze

When a Mother’s Day fire this year tore through the family business, Rosemary Holmes knew there was little time to weep and lament what had been lost. Instead, it was business as usual the very next day at Neville’s Flowers, 321 Peters Alley, Montoursville.

“Our immediate concerns were getting electricity and water up and running and having telephones working, which took a day,” Holmes said. “We made deliveries the second day. We made some delayed Mother’s Day deliveries.”

The fire, with an estimated damage of $150,000, destroyed a greenhouse, work area and storage building. Holmes described her feelings at the time of the fire as a feeling of numbness.

“I never saw a fire that big,” she said.

The business, started by her parents, Jim and Helen Neville in 1945, had been through its share of changes. Since taken over by Rosemary and her husband, William Holmes, it has been their livelihood.

“Had there been wind or not an adequate amount of water, it could have been a real disaster,” she said.

As devastating as the fire was to the business, Rosemary felt it could have been worse. And, at least it didn’t happen right before Mother’s Day, perhaps the busiest time for the business.

She managed to see the bright side to the fire.

“I was so thankful that the site where all of our records and business activities occur was not affected,” she said.

She was thankful too, she said, about the prompt response of local volunteer firefighters who were able to prevent flames from spreading into the main building of the business.

And, she was overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from people.

“We had wonderful friends and helpers who brought in generators. That got electricity up and running,” she said. “People brought in lunches and cookies.”

She thinks back to what wasn’t lost.

The main shop remains intact as do two greenhouses. The spot where the one greenhouse and storage building sat is now an empty lot, but plans are under way to erect a new warehouse.

As she stood outside the shop looking across the very area where flames swept through her business that Mother’s Day evening, she wasn’t shedding tears but looking ahead, and with plenty of optimism.

“We are just really excited about getting the new building up,” she said. “We are refocusing on the business and doing things to make it better for the future.”