A PET shop is trading once again, eight months after a devastating blaze which killed dozens of its animals.
Birds, rabbits, guinea pigs, snakes, lizards and spiders – as well as about 1,000 fish – were among the creatures that perished when the fire destroyed the Animal Tracks unit in Cramlington, Northumberland last summer.
Owners and partners, Helen Edwards and Jason Seymour, described the blaze as “our worst nightmare”, and had to shut the pet shop and aquatic centre just a year after opening it.
The fire broke out in the Animal Tracks unit at Cramlington’s Azure garden centre in the early hours of a Sunday morning in June.
Now it is open again and serving customers after being refurbished and modernised, with trading finally resuming last Saturday.
Helen, Jason and their staff were able to save some of the animals following the blaze, which killed or injured many others and melted cages and tanks.
It was a devastating blow for the couple who had been delighted with the success of the franchise, after adding it to their main pet store in Ashington.
Now the refurbished unit is back in business, four months after Helen and Jason opened a third Animal Tracks shop in Chillingham Road, Heaton.
Yesterday Helen said: “We re-opened the Cramlington store on Saturday and had a fantastic weekend. We had lots of people in, customers old and new, and some who had been waiting for us to re-open.
“The Azure garden centre has been refurbished and our new unit if definitely more upmarket, and the aquarium system is more modern. The building itself is warmer and we are finishing things off this week by building an aviary and small animals run.
“We are going to stock a bit more than we did before, including indoor and outdoor fish, small animals like rabbits and guinea pigs, reptiles and birds.
“It feels fabulous because we really missed being in Cramlington, and missed our customers. We are still sad about what happened, and the terrible loss of the animals has not been forgotten about, but we’ve come back fighting.
Helen added: “The fire was devastating, although the animals we did manage to rescue all survived.
“It has been a long road back but the garden centre has been a massive help to us. If it was not for them we probably wouldn’t have been able to open again.”
The Azure garden centre, which was previously known as the Shaw garden centre, is a charity which provides supported employment and training for people with disabilities. It is one of the main businesses which form part of Azure Charitable Enterprises.