Fire guts bridal shop

Clovis firefighters work Sunday to control a fire at Freeman’s Bridal Shop and Formal Wear on Main Street. The fire left a hole in the building’s roof. (CNJ correspondent: Martha Richardson)

By Marlena Hartz: CNJ staff photo

The downtown shop Marjorie Noble owned and operated for more than 30 years was severely damaged in a fire Sunday afternoon.

The upstairs of Freeman’s Bridal Shop and Formal Wear was gutted by the Sunday blaze. The building’s roof collapsed, a blot of blue sky now visible through the back of the structure where just charred remnants and singed bricks remain.

Noble does not plan to rebuild the structure. The loss of the bridal shop, which her first husband purchased for her as a gift, has caused her to retire. Two women employed part-time at the shop are also out of work, she said.

“I wanted to retire, but I did not want to retire this way,” said Noble, who was at the shop nearly every day and regularly picked out gowns for her store.

The Clovis resident is still reeling from the death of her second husband, Eldred Noble. The former city commissioner died two days after Thanksgiving due to heart complications, she said.

“This is a big phase of my life just gone. But you know, you just have to pick up and go on,” said Noble at her dining room table Monday afternoon. “I am not going to let this destroy me.”

Rather than dwell on her recent losses, Noble prefers to look at ways in which she says she has been blessed. No one was injured in the fire and major damage was limited to the bridal shop.

“I am just so thankful that it didn’t spread next door or to the rest of the block,” Noble said.

She said she was at church around 12:16 p.m. when a passerby reported smoke rising from the shop. Firefighters soon arrived at the scene. As high winds — estimated at 40 mph to 50 mph by the National Weather Service — whipped through the region, they feared the fire could spread to other downtown businesses.

However, Capt. Karen Burns of the Clovis Fire Department said nearby structures were largely spared, with minor smoke damage reported at two adjacent shops. She said the high winds may have actually clamped the fire’s spread, as the water used to put out the flames was blown around the neighborhood, soaking the buildings.

About a block of Main Street was cordoned by firefighters and police for several hours Sunday. The fire was under control a little over an hour after it was reported and was out about 2:45 p.m., according to Burns.

Burns said investigation into the cause of the fire Monday was stalled by the holiday, but she estimated that will be determined by the end of the week. A member of the Clovis Fire Department said the flames appeared to have originated in the upstairs rear of the building located on 520 Main Street.

“This was a high-value, high-loss fire,” Burns said.

Glass laid shattered in the front of the shop on Monday, but most of the shop’s gowns appeared unblemished; those in the front window still on display on mannequins, many still lining the walls of the shop on hangers. Firefighters declared the upstairs of the shop a total loss, and Noble said she is unsure of the extent of smoke and water damage to gowns and other inventory downstairs.

The majority of the dresses belonged to the shop, not customers, Noble said. One order for a wedding dress had yet to be shipped there, and only a few gowns were being stored in the back of the shop on lay-away, Noble said.
Those customers who had dresses on lay-away or were storing a gown at the shop, Noble said, should not worry.

“I will take care of my customers one way or another,” she said.