“How Long Has This Been Going On?” could be heard Saturday afternoon over the small Bose wall speakers at Briolette Beads & More, the Madison Street business that – yet again – is in recovery mode.
The fact that any background music was detectable on the first day of a reopening meant progress. On May 22, the last time the shop opened after a shutdown because of water damage, so many large dehumidifying fans were running, it was barely possible to hear conversation.
The industrial fans were quieter this weekend because ServiceMaster, working with Briolette to prevent any mold growth during the cleanup, had removed a few. But two fans still whirred in the office loft, where large black plastic trash bags were taped together and tied over the opening to protect the main floor from falling objects.
The entire ceiling was ripped out above the office. The west wall near the front door, a prime merchandising area for the specialty shop at 7322 Madison, was covered with clear plastic tarp. Detailed displays of delicate stock had been removed.
“We haven’t got classrooms ready yet, but we have space for you to work on your projects,” read an e-mail sent to customers just after 8 p.m. Friday night. “The store has been cleared for safety.”
In a series of disruptions that initially centered on losses of goods and the opportunities to provide a lifeline service – classes – the key word now at Briolette is
“We lost a cash register and a computer,” said manager Kate Crofford about the June 1 damage that she could pinpoint. “Then we had to wait for ServiceMaster to give us the OK,” Crofford said, referring to the mold-control operation of nearly two weeks. She praised her staff as “patient and supportive” so-called “recovery mats” covered the wet floors.
“All of our magazines were destroyed – not by the water directly, but by the humidity,” Crofford told the Review. “We had stuff in packaging that is now unsellable. We just started sorting through, and we are finding some things are fine and will need repackaging, but other things were destroyed.”
What is this costing?
According to Crofford, the dollar amount of lost inventory is not yet known. Nor is the dollar amount of work needed to restore the shop space now.
Last fall, during the first round of flooding, the price tag for repairs to the shop’s interior was $15,000, according to Charlene Steele, owner of Briolette Beads. Steele also owns, along with bead broker Jon Kubricht, the commercial condominium from which Briolette does business. Their space is in the three-story mixed-use brick building at the southeast corner of the Circle intersection.
The building, which dates to the 1920s, is owned and was made into condos by Robert Marani, a developer and restaurateur in Forest Park since the early 1990s.
More than a year has passed since Fifth Third Bank began foreclosure proceedings against Marani for this property. In that time, residential condo owners on the building’s second and third floors have complained of multiple incidents of indoor flooding. Marani has acknowledged construction issues but has claimed irrecoverable setbacks from a stop-work order he’d fought with the village building department.
“We blame Marani for faulty workmanship and cutting corners. We won’t let him in our space any more,” said Steele, who recalls that, in October, Marani and a village inspector “told us to our faces we’d never have water in here again.” The most recent damage, she said, came Tuesday, June 1, with water “just pouring in … it was horrible.”
Marani could not be reached for comment on this story.
Where did the water come from?
“When the insurance adjuster for EMC Insurance came, we were told the decks on the floors above us were improperly designed,” Steele told the Review.
“They fill up like bathtubs and overflow. The adjuster found the drains clogged with tarballs and other garbage. … And we can’t do any repairs until the insurance company OKs it. It’s sad that small businesses like us have to suffer – we don’t have, like, gobs of money.”
Steele said Kubricht gave Steve Glinke, the village’s fire chief who now is also heading the building department, a tour last week of their damaged shop space.
“It’s complicated, but not complex,” says Glinke, who got a crash course in the building’s saga last month after being named to the post that former building department director Mike Boyle had suddenly left.
“The building is a priority,” Glinke told the Review. “My involvement started the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend. I was there on Memorial Day. I was there most of the next day. I’ve been there probably at least once every day since.”
After the initial walk-through, Glinke said the condo association pointed out a damaged drainpipe. “We got it fixed the next day,” he said. “We’re here to help and to try to keep our word.”
Glinke says he understands the village has lost the trust of the condo association but that he’s working to reestablish lines of communication and rebuild faith that proper action will be taken.
Glinke said he had been advised by the village attorney that he not comment on an assertion by Briolette owner Charlene Steele that a village inspector last fall told her, “You’ll never have this problem again.”
However, Glinke did say of the building’s condo owners:
“They’ve earned their battle scars. It shouldn’t be this way. They should be able to count on a rote process.”
Kubricht has scars and frustration.
He says the building was “not up to code” and describes the village building department as “asleep at the wheel,” though he says “the only person on the ball was Mike Boyle.”
“If they had listened to Mike, who pointed out all the shoddy work,” Kubricht says, things might not have been so bad.
Boyle, who was Forest Park’s director of public health and safety, resigned suddenly last August.
Where are we now?
After the Monday night’s council meeting, Glinke told the Review that he had just walked through the entire building with a representative from B&F Consultants, a third-party contracting firm from Hoffman Estates hired by the village for code enforcement cases.
“There is no more water,” Glinke said, noting they’d found that all leaks had been treated.
For as cheery as Saturday was at Briolette – “First day back at work and I’m having a great time!” said teacher Kay Bailey – the reality of the indie business’s next chapter was in the e-mail that customers got about last weekend’s 50-percent-off sale: “… to help fund the construction that still needs to be done.”