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Next back in business after blaze at Gemini Retail Park
10:50am Friday 31st August 2012 in News
LAST month Next store manager Paul Mason could only stand and watch as his Gemini retail park store burnt to the ground.
More than 50 firefighters battled the flames after the blaze started in Boots and spread across the two buildings destroying everything in its path.
But six weeks later the popular fashion store has risen from the ashes with men’s, women’s and children’s clothes being sold from what was meant to be the new garden and home store.
Paul, aged 49, said: “I got a call from our security manager telling me about the fire.
“He had dialled 999 after smelling smoke in the building but they told him they already knew about it.
“When I got there it was a big shock and the firefighters said Boots had gone but they might be able to save my building.
“I was stood there from 9pm to 2am watching the fire spread across and the building burn down but it didn’t really hit me what had happened until later.”
The new garden and home store was expected to extend from the clothes store and open on August 18 as the first of its kind in the north of England.
Demolition of the fire-damaged building is expected to be completed in the next three weeks with the new store set to open around Easter 2013.
Bosses said the 150 people employed by the store, aged from 16 to over 70, were sent to 14 other stores across the region while some took the opportunity for a holiday after the blaze.
Paul, who lives in Appleton , added: “One girl asked if she could work in Leeds because that’s where her boyfriend was living for university so we tried to suit staff’s needs.
“But everyone is really pleased to be back in store now and I’ve never had so many hugs.
“They have all done a great job organising stock and we have had a lot of positive comments from customers who are glad we are back.”