Standing in a mostly bare building at 324 E. Locust St., Sandra Herring sees possibilities.
“The’ve put my desk in,” she says pointing to a corner of a room in the building, which has sat vacant for many years.
She shows an area where one day antiques and collectibles dealers will have shelves stocked full of unusual items for treasure hunters to comb through. Another area will house a coffee bar.
“All of this will be air conditioned,” she continues, looking around.
Herring is the longtime manager of the Ye Old City Antique Mall in Tyler. On June 1, a fire ravaged one of two warehouses in the 300 block of East Locust that houses the business.
Polly Hitt, a woman who lived in an apartment above the antique mall, escaped the flames.
Herring said she was notified of the fire by Hitt and others. By the time she arrived from her home in Bullard, flames were shooting out the roof and windows and thick smoke was billowing high into the air.
“They lost everything,” Herring said of the dealers, many whom are her friends. “They had things that could never be replaced. That’s what’s sad.”
Herring said fire investigators told her they believe an electrical spark started the fire.
Using five engine trucks and two ladder trucks, the fire department spared a second warehouse full of booths located only a few yards to the east. That portion of the antique mall remains open.
Within days after the fire, owners Bert and Robert Powell launched plans refurbish a third building they owned in the same block to create new space for dealers. Herring said many dealers who had booths in the destroyed building plan to relocate into the new space.
“This building is awesome,” she said. “I’m exhausted but I fall asleep with visions of the new Ye Olde Antique Mall in my head.”
Work on the space has helped keep her focused and motivated.
“This is an exciting time,” Herring said. “We’re moving fast. We’re making progress every day.”
She said that a canopy will connect the building with the existing warehouse so shoppers can easily move between the two.
If all goes as planned, the refurbished building will be open by the end of the year. Herring said they are also thinking about ways to use a fenced-in courtyard behind the building.
“Out of something ugly we’re making something beautiful,” Herring said. “Beauty is emerging from the ashes.”