John Kinsey recalled the tragic day, as he held the ribbon that would be cut and mark a new day for Millie’s Drapery & Decorating in Gainesville.
“A year ago today, we stood right here embracing each other, giving God the glory for what he was going to do,” said Kinsey, co-owner with wife June. “He did it. He proved again that he is stronger than we are.”
An overnight, accidental fire — thought to be electrical in nature — consumed the business at 1732 Cleveland Highway, but there was never a doubt what the next step would be.
He stood with family, also involved in the business, and employees in a ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday afternoon to open the newly rebuilt business.
“I thank all of the community for everything that they’ve done to support us with prayers, phone calls and cards,” Kinsey said. “There’s a lot of thank-yous we’ll never get to.”
The family particularly leaned on faith to get through the crisis. The ribbon featured a piece of Scripture, Isaiah 61:3, which Kinsey’s daughter Melissa Hulsey read to the crowd gathered for the ceremony.
“He will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair,” said Hulsey, who works as a designer at the business. “And that’s what we can stand here today on.
“A year ago, we lost a building, but what we gained was strength of family, strength of our faith, a real sense of community.”
The Cleveland Highway location has been the home of the business since it moved from Thompson Bridge Road in 1998, John Kinsey has said.
Millie’s was able to quickly find its temporary location, an old pool supply business across from the Publix-anchored shopping center off Thompson Bridge Road in Gainesville, and reopen weeks after the fire.
“Even though it’s a lot smaller than what we’re used to — we’ve been on top of each other for the last nine months — to be visible was the biggest thing,” office manager Chris Kinsey said in an interview earlier this year.
Millie’s has been a family business since the 1960s, started by Chris Kinsey’s great-aunt Mildred Dougherty. His parents bought it in 1980.
Dougherty, who was among the dozens of people streaming through the building for the grand reopening, also recalled the fire.
“It broke my heart,” she said, choking back tears. “June is just like my daughter.”
The new building “makes me proud of her,” Dougherty added. “It’s beautiful.”