Web Extra! Video

First reported 5/25/2010 11:15 a.m.

Briolette Beads & More, the Madison Street business that last year had to install a gutter to cope with leaks, just faced more disruption from water damage.

From May 13 to May 21, the shop was closed as fans whirred, workers wiped and friends and neighbors of the staff stopped by for support in an all-out effort to return to normalcy.

“I don’t know why a ground-floor business in a two-story building takes on water whenever it rains, but the storms last night really did a number on us,” manager Kate Crofford posted on the shop’s blog May 13. At noon the following Thursday, when reopening had been hoped for, the push to dry the shop’s rear corner still was under way. By the next day – Friday, May 21, Briolette Beads reopened early in the afternoon, but displays, cash registers, backroom order and employee energy weren’t quite the same.

A 10-minute video on the shop’s blog shows and tells beginning of the latest episode of loss and frustration at 7322 Madison. Briolette Beads is one of the retail units in the mixed-use brick building at Circle and Madison that’s owned and was developed by troubled restaurateur Robert Marani.

“This has been an ongoing problem, and every time it happens, we are assured it won’t happen again after the problem is ‘fixed,'” the shop blog said, right after noting the shop would “reopen as soon as we are sure the ceiling won’t fall on anyone.”

The shop’s owner, Charlene Steele, and the shop’s manager, Kate Crofford, are in the Czech Republic on a buying trip. One of the shop’s teachers, Laura Arellano, who is running the shop in their absence, was uncomfortable speaking to the Review about the extent of the damage in their absence. Neither Steele nor Crofford returned e-mail asking for specifics. But the overall effect of recent rain on the shop’s interior is clear to see.

A portion of the ceiling in the west rear loft section of the shop had filled with rain and collapsed, leaving the hardwood floor below it soaked and a musty odor for the multiple heavy-duty dehumidifying floor fans to treat. Among the lost stock are pattern books and ribbons. Tracks of lights are flickering.

Briolette Beads was not the only shop on the block to take in water recently. According to staffers at Chix with Stix, the knitting supply shop at two doors east at 7316 Madison, that business has sustained water damage to a western interior shop wall, buckling paint above and behind shelves of cubbies filled with specialty yarns. It’s not clear whether water traveled to the knitting shop from the bead shop, but Chix with Stix staff told the Review that their losses have paralleled episodes of water damage at Briolette Beads.

In a complicated case of assessing responsibility for the building’s construction between the village and the builder, who had claimed irrecoverable setbacks from a stop-work order he’d fought, it appears that the needed waterproofing repairs are unlikely to occur until ownership of the as-yet unsold portions of the building changes hands.

More than a year has passed since Fifth Third Bank began foreclosure proceedings against Marani. In that time, residential condo owners on the building’s second and third floors have complained of multiple incidents of indoor flooding. Sources familiar with commercial real estate in Forest Park say that no receiver has been appointed in the proceeding, which they described as “a little unusual” and something that “should have happened months ago.”

What options does a small, independent business have in a such predicament?

According to Laurie Kokenes, director of the Forest Park Chamber of Commerce, those options are rather limited. The chamber, Kokenes said, exists to promote the village and its member businesses, and will give advice when called upon in situations involving signage and permits. But other than that, the chamber can only direct businesses to the appropriate village officials. Briolette Beads, Kokenes said, is not a member of the Chamber of Commerce.

The Review has learned that the unit occupied by Briolette Beads is a rental owned by Jon Kubricht, known for various business ventures including bead brokering. Calls to Kubricht were not returned, nor were calls to Marani.

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