AYER — If you’re missing the sight of men’s work and casual fashions in the P.N. Laggis storefront at 67 Main St., you’re in luck.
On Monday, Aug. 13, the clothier officially reopens for business.
The store closed after sustaining extensive smoke damage in the wake of the catastrophic five-alarm fire on June 18 in the neighboring building at 63 Main St.
The blaze destroyed two businesses and left 10 people homeless when the “Roux” or “Subway” building burned, leaving a hulking structurally unsound building. Only the foundation remains following demolition. The resulting hole is skirted by chain-link fence.
Back at the men’s clothing store, “We got rid of everything,” said owner Nick Laggis, 60, the third-generation owner/operator of the store opened by his grandfather, Nicholas Peter Laggis, in 1916.
Nick’s father, Peter N. Laggis, 86, had still been working four hours each day at the store despite his “retirement.” Nick Laggis said his father was “devastated” upon hearing news of the fire.
The disaster also provided an unnatural extended break for salesman Bob Schick, who has worked at the store for the past 56 years.
Nick Laggis, who has worked at the store for 46 years, found the closure to be jarring.
“I’ve never had so much time off in my life,” he said. “Now I’m going to get back to work with a shirt and tie on every day.”
In settling the claim with his insurance company, the store was scrubbed from attic to basement by ServPro. “They did a good job,” marveled Laggis.
Marden’s, a 14-store Maine salvage chain, removed the entire smoke damaged inventory. Laggis said he didn’t want customers to have any lingering question about the quality of the clothing they’d be purchasing when P.N. Laggis reopens.
“A hundred years of stuff” was purged; Laggis said the store has never been so empty.
“Everything’s new … we got rid of everything,” said Laggis.
Laggis held off on reordering inventory until the demolition of 63 Main St. was winding down. Laggis placed his orders in late July. In early August, stock began to roll in.
Laggis was in the store opening boxes, hanging clothes and restocking empty shelves when talking to this reporter.
He stopped to help a customer looking for a pair of shorts. The man was from out of town, has been a regular customer, and was oblivious to the fact that a major fire took place next door.
“I wasn’t going to turn him away,” said Laggis, who found a pair of shorts in the man’s size, completed the sale, and sent the happy customer on his way.
Laggis said he was alerted to the early-morning fire on June 18 and went down to stand on the sidewalk to watch the firefighters scramble in the dark. It was clear the situation was “not good.” Heavy smoke poured out of the building and flames leapt into the nighttime air.
“They did an excellent job saving the building,” Laggis said of the Ayer Fire Department and crews from surrounding departments. Their skill saved surrounding buildings, such as Laggis’ store, from more serious loss.
When he was allowed into his store briefly at 3 a.m. after firefighters ensured the fire hadn’t spread, Laggis said the damage to his store was clear. “You could smell it. It was strong.”
A big air scrubber fan loaned by the Fire Department cleared the heavy smoke but the damage had been done. Everything had to go.
“The store had never been stripped down,” said Laggis. “It’s never been this clean or empty.”
When reordering, Laggis said he tried to “add a few new lines.” Stay tuned for news of new brands, Laggis hinted.
But as he restocked, Laggis reflected on the major commercial presence that 63 Main St. had played in the downtown economy. Spaced just three feet from his store at the closest point, Laggis recalled that 63 Main St. had long contained “a market downstairs.”
“Upstairs was a tailor and dry-cleaning shop” run by the late Jane Mento, he recalled. Mento, an Ayer resident who worked side by side with his family, passed away at age 99.
“If the fire happened five years from now, I might have retired,” said Laggis, who lives in Ayer with his wife, Donna, and is a grandfather of four.
But retirement isn’t in the cards. The Laggis family is restocked, reloaded — and ready to retail.
P.N. Laggis is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The store is closed on Sundays. The store’s website is www.pnlaggis.com and the telephone number is 978-772-2619. “Like” the store on Facebook at “P.N. Laggis Co., Inc.”