PEPPERELL – Less than two weeks after a three-alarm fire destroyed the roof and nearly all usable interior space on April 4, Conway Chevrolet-Buick is back in business thanks in large part to the hard work of 25 dedicated employees, owner Richard Conway said this week.
“Everyone’s been working mega hours with no layoffs,” Conway said. “Even the insurance adjuster said we moved mountains in a few days. Our people did and continue to do so.”
By the close of business the day after the fire, new telephone lines had been installed. Internet access with General Motors and customers was established the following day, and salesmen were on duty working out of the rear room of the parts department.
“There were eight people at a time squeezed into a very small area but they made it,” Conway said. “Due to the real hard work of some people here we had it all back by the close of business Wednesday.”
This week, business is operating normally from trailers located in the parking lot and, despite loss of the service area, that part of the business is up and running at a 75 percent level. Repair and maintenance jobs are scheduled in Pepperell and the work is being done in two leased satellite locations, Conway said.
Damage estimates to the building have yet to be finalized. One used vehicle sold the day of the fire that had been sitting on the preparation rack inside the building was lost and a pickup truck sitting on a lift was damaged.
“The four walls are left,” Conway said. “If you lifted the roof off a doll house and took everything out, that’s what we’ve got. However, we hope to be fully operational in the service center within six weeks. It will take a few months to get the sales room and offices open.
“Customer response has been tremendous and we’re selling as if things were normal,” Conway said. “We’re back to normal business hours.”
What has equally impressed him is the response from the town and surrounding communities.
“Offers of help have come from at least 100 people and organizations,” he said. “Steve Gervais (of Gervais Ford, Ayer) and Mark Framanian, his parts and service manager, came in the next day. You’d expect something like that from a classy guy like Steve,” Conway said, “but we’ve got to find a way to thank all these (other) folks.”
He said he and staff members are recovering from their efforts to re-open.
“For a while, adrenaline takes over but then tiredness sets in,” he said. “You take so much energy from the people around you. You have to be numb not to be appreciative.
“We want everybody to know we’re in business. We can’t thank people enough and we’ll find a way to do that, particularly our employees. They went way above and beyond,” Conway said.