Temporary site for feed store that lost everything in fire, city rallying around them

SANDY STOREY - The view from the back of the building reveals the extent of the damage resulting from the Feb. 6 fire.

On the evening of Feb. 6, Ashley Bentley "watched [her] entire life go up in flames."

But five days later, the store moved into a vacant fertilizer building on Hart Avenue. Their vendors have slowly began to replace stock so they could reopen on Feb. 11. The owners lost everything because even the small amount that wasn't destroyed by the fire had to be thrown out due to smoke damage.

They not only lost the feed store, but a good deal of sleep. They might have to sell their home to make up for the portion of the loss the insurance won't pay.

Ashley, the co-owner of the Bentley Feed store with her husband Brian, stood and watched as their only means of livelihood lit up the night sky. The couple has hired an attorney, but is concerned that the insurance won't pay for everything that was destroyed, which is far more than $100,000, according to Ashley. That includes tools, like a forklift, which will cost at least $15,000 for a used version.

"We will have to slowly acquire the funds. This isn't a high profit business and in the past all our profits went back to the feed store," Ashley said.

If they have to, they will sell their house because without the business they have no way to pay their mortgage or buy food for the five members of their family, she told the Pioneer.

CAROL ROSEN - Pictured is what remains of Bentley Feed. With the help of the community, owners have moved the business to a temporary location.

They lost about $85,000 in feed and other products and the insurer has mentioned a payback that is considerably less, which doesn't include "everything we need to operate," she added.

In order to rebuild, they will need to pay for county permits, pay for lost feed and for what's coming in now, and then pay costs to rebuild and move back to the 50-year-old business.

They hope to start to rebuild as soon as the fire investigation is over and they have the money to begin.

"We hope to rebuild within the year," Ashley said.

And, then there's their temporary building. The city is allowing the commercial feed store to stay on Hart Avenue in the fertilizer building for at least six months. The commercial store actually reopened in an area zoned for light industrial. The city is permitting them to stay there for at least six months when they will revisit the issue, said both Ashley and City Manager Dan Huff. Because the Bentleys hope to rebuild it's likely they will be granted an extension.

"We're hoping for the permits to be inexpensive and timely," Ashley said. Permits will be required through the county, Huff said.

The Pioneer was unable to find out the range of costs for the permits, which will be based on the valuation of the project, according to Matt Rozzell, county building codes official.

Currently, their vendors offered to hold their accounts, she added. But they still have to pay them back.

It's apparent the store is well-liked by the community. Its Facebook page has glowing comments about the business and its services. That's a light shining on them and, unlike many businesses, all the comments are positive.

The phone rings constantly from customers wanting to know if they're open or if they have one product or another. During the interview, Bigfoot Bud employees, a nearby business, brought in a check from a fundraiser held over the weekend. Each of the three of the businesses that were harmed by the fire got a third of what was collected.

There's a GoFundMe page for the feed store that collected $12,600 from 130 people in just 11 days. Neighbors and friends hope to raise $100,000, which may allow them to keep their home.

Burns Feed Store in Gresham is holding a benefit for Bentley's on Feb. 23. It will donate 10 percent of the day's sales to the Molalla store.

Apparently it's a mutual admiration society because Ashley calls all of her customers "lovely, wonderful and loyal."

Bentley Feed is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday. It's located at 430 Hart Ave., at phone number 503-829-2412.

Carol Rosen
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