Fire guts SugarShak pottery studio

Owner, fellow artists vow to reopen retail shop by April
By Nicholas Johnson | Mar 08, 2017
Photo by: Nicholas Johnson Liz Myers, left, and Brandon Ainsworth work together Saturday, March 4, to move several pottery wheels from the burned-out pottery studio at SugarShak by the Sea, an artisan co-op and retail store in the 3000 block of West Mukilteo Boulevard.

Like a phoenix from the ashes, SugarShak by the Sea will rise again.

“We will reopen, for sure,” shop owner and studio manager Liz Myers said.

In the early morning hours of Monday, Feb. 27, fire tore through the pottery studio space next to the retail shop at 3710 W. Mukilteo Blvd., where about a dozen area artisans display and sell their work.

“I drove by and there was smoke pouring out of the eave vents and across Mukilteo Boulevard,” said Colin Edwards, who lives up the hill in the Boulevard Bluffs neighborhood just outside Mukilteo.

It was just after 4:30 a.m. when Edwards spotted the smoke on his way to work. He called 911, and then called his neighbor, Ann Swadener, a watercolor artist and member of SugarShak’s artisan co-op.

“I threw on a coat over my pajamas and found some rubber boots and ran down there not knowing what I would find or what I could do to help,” she said.

Soon, Everett Fire Department crews arrived to put out the flames. Steve Goforth, assistant fire marshal with the department, said he is still compiling his report on the extent of the damage.

Swadener said when firefighters got inside, they noticed the fire appeared to have spread from an old heater suspended from the ceiling. Swadener said she thinks the heater malfunctioned, stopped circulating air, overheated and somehow sparked the fire.

“It did considerable damage on the pottery side,” Myers said, noting that the retail side sustained smoke damage. “It will have to be rebuilt on the inside from the ground up.”

The heat of the fire blew out the building’s front windows, which have since been boarded up and painted over. Inside, everything is covered in a layer of ash.

Many members of the artist co-op that Myers began in November 2014, when the retail shop opened, gathered Saturday, March 4, to collect their work, move everything out and cleanse the inside of soot and the overwhelming smell of smoke.

Brandon Ainsworth, who took pottery lessons from Myers before eventually joining the co-op, helped Myers carry pottery wheels and stools, among other things, from the fire-gutted studio.

“These needed a deep cleaning, anyway,” he said as the two hauled a pottery wheel out the studio.

Myers said as devastating as the damage is, she and her fellow artisans have rallied over the last week to clean up and plan for the future.

“Everybody has the same vision of rebuilding,” said Myers, who has received many kind words from patrons and passers-by. “What could have been so terrible and tragic has turned into a coming together of the community to support this business. It’s been inspiring.”

Myers said she expects to reopen the retail side by April, but the pottery studio will take longer, as the inside needs a full renovation.

“We will get there,” she said. “We will rise again. We’re not going anywhere, but it might take a little while.”

Myers, who first opened the studio space in August 2010, said she had planned to start hosting pottery classes again, something she had put on hold upon opening the retail shop.

“The weekend before, I had posted on Facebook that we would start pottery classes again in April, and then on Monday morning the place caught fire,” she said.

Myers said Rainier Property Management, which manages the property, has been understanding, and has encouraged the business to reopen as soon as possible.

“We just weren’t prepared for this and didn’t know how exactly to move forward, what steps to take,” she said, noting that much of the shop’s furniture has been moved into a PODS container.

“You don’t realize how much damage a fire can do,” she said. “It’s mind-boggling. You’re never prepared to walk in and see your baby up in smoke. There’s nothing that can prepare you for that.”

Swadener said she never thought she would be affected by a structure fire.

“It always seemed like something that would never happen to me,” she said. “To have it affect us was pretty surreal. We were lucky that no one was hurt.”

Myers said she is committed to rebuilding and reopening, and is thankful the damage wasn’t any worse.

“Thank God that [Edwards] happened to drive by and look to the left on his way to work,” she said. “It’s miraculous. It could have been a whole lot worse.”

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