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Black Forest open for business

One of the most surreal images that came out of the early stages of the Black Forest fire was a YouTube video posted by Wayne Laugesen on June 11, the day the fire started. The eight-second clip shows Colorado Springs police officers hastily getting into their cruisers and yelling at bystanders to leave as a fast-moving wall of fire tears through trees just north of the intersection of Black Forest Road and Shoup Road.Clearly visible in the video are the log buildings on the southwest corner that now house the Firehouse on the Run BBQ, gas station and Munson Excavating. What canít be seen are the Black Forest Community Center, shrouded in smoke to the north, or the historic Old Log School and other commercial structures to the west.In the chaos of initial property assessments to determine which buildings in Black Forest had survived the firestorm, conflicting reports emerged almost on a daily basis.Economic impactIt didnít take long for businesses shuttered by the fire to reopen. Firehouse on the Run BBQ reopened less than a week after the fire, as did Black Forest Automotive Inc. (formerly the Black Forest Service Center) and Rockiní B Feed and Supply, among others. However, businesses will feel the fireís economic impact for some time to come. The Gazette reported that small businesses in Black Forest suffered an estimated $28 million in losses based on preliminary data from the Colorado Springs Small Business Development Center, which is assisting small business owners with recovery efforts.Jeff Ader of the Black Forest Community Club said that the fire had ìa huge effectî on the club and community center. Seven wedding events had to be cancelled, leaving those couples and their families scrambling to find alternate venues. Ader, a small business owner who teaches karate, described the challenges facing local businesses when so many regular patrons are displaced. Temporary relocations, altered travel routes and schedule disruptions caused by meetings with insurance adjusters or contractors means fewer customers stopping in Black Forest for their morning coffee or a bite to eat. ìItís hard to get people in for karate classes when theyíve lost their homes,î he said.Spreading the wordDuring the fire, Black Forest businesses stayed in touch with their customers using traditional and digital means. Eric Aeschliman, owner of Black Forest Automotive Inc., had the business phone transferred to his cell phone so that he could take calls from concerned customers. He also used the BFAI web page to confirm that the business had survived the fire and would soon reopen. Table Rock Llamas and Fiber Arts Studio on Shoup Road kept its customers informed via its Facebook page and website. R&R Coffee CafÈ, which recently moved into the empty lumberyard south of Burgess Road on Black Forest Road, used its blog and Facebook to post its own updates, as well as the status of neighboring businesses.Life is far from returning to normal for many residents, but Ader said itís important for people to know that Black Forest is open for business. ìItís a tough breed of people out here,î he said. Many who have lost homes are already talking about rebuilding rather than vacating their properties, and business owners are determined to keep going. But they cannot succeed without customers to provide vital economic support.Moving forwardAder said the Black Forest Community Center is continuing with scheduled events. The annual Black Forest Festival Aug. 17 will also proceed as planned, with this yearís theme being ìRecover, Rebuild, Restore Our Community.î Ader said the festival will honor first responders, and the paradeís Grand Marshal will be Black Forest Fire/Rescue Chief Bob Harvey. He also said many vendors have already decided to donate portions of their profits to the Black Forest Foundation, Black Forest Cares and other organizations supporting local recovery efforts.ìThe slogan of the Black Forest Community Club is, ëEveryone in the forest is family,íî Ader said. ìIn times like these you recognize the truth of that. Thereís something unique about our little corner of the world.î

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