This wasn’t the Christmas Mike Wagaman or his employees wanted.
On Dec. 4, a fire destroyed his Peachtree Bikes store in Buckhead. Several adjacent businesses were damaged as well. Wagaman has moved the company’s operations to the company’s Sandy Springs location. Some of the eight employees that worked in Buckhead used the opportunity for an extended vacation.
He said his employees’ heartbreak is the hardest part of his ordeal. Wagaman said he tried to make the Buckhead shop a second home for them.
“It’s a family, you know,” Wagaman said, standing in front of a row of bikes at the Sandy Springs store. “Everybody at the shop helped build that place.”
For those employees who wanted to keep working, Wagaman offered them the opportunity to participate in coat drives and other charitable events. He says he’s doing it, “Just to stay out in the community.”
The biking community has his back, organizing a solidarity ride in the company’s honor. Store manager Linda Biskup showed an enlarged photo of Atlanta firefighters standing in the rubble of the Peachtree store. Several customers had signed it.
Wagaman said investigators still aren’t sure what caused the fire. He opened the Sandy Springs location three years ago. The Buckhead location has existed since the late 60s.
He remembers the night of the fire. Wagaman locked up at 8 p.m. and received a phone call from his alarm company 10 to 15 minutes later. The company said there was glass breaking and motion in the store.
“It was a fireman,” Wagaman said.
Wagaman said another friend who was at the scene called him and told him, “It’s done, dude. Your store is done. The flames are on Peachtree Road.”
The fire took everything, including bikes that had been dropped off for maintenance and repairs.
Spaces next to the store suffered heavy smoke and water damage, too. He said contractors are tearing out the ceilings and will rebuild his portion of the retail center. Wagaman said he’ll soon move the Buckhead store to a temporary location.
“It’s quite an ordeal,” he said.
Wagaman said the community support has also helped boost sales too, but it’s not what he would’ve made if the Buckhead store hadn’t burned down. “We’re not where we should be,” he said.
Even with the bad luck, Wagaman and his staff see better days ahead. He’s even got a good sense of humor about things.
There’s a chance that some items in the Buckhead store that can be retrieved. Whatever he finds might smell like smoke, but Wagaman said he will take what he can get.
“We have a big sale in March,” Wagaman said. “”If there’s anything salvageable, we’ll definitely have a fire sale.”