CINCINNATI — Eric Weickert’s eyes were still stinging Monday as he fastened a mask over his nose and mouth. The inside of his Springfield Pike business, Weickert's Flooring, looked mostly untouched by the fire that had erupted inside Friday night, but the smell — that was the real trouble, he said. Every wood sample and strip of carpet still stank like smoke and burnt rubber.
Reporters couldn't go outside without being masked, too.
“We didn’t really believe it” when the first call about the fire came, Weickert said. “Thought somebody was kidding.”
Even after they did believe it, they didn’t immediately realize how serious the damage was. Weickert’s first priority that night, rolling up on a scene milling with firefighters, was ensuring no one was hurt. When he learned that they hadn’t been, he relaxed.
Then he opened the garage doors.
“We opened up our rug room and there was smoke everywhere,” he said. “It’s behind two double doors and we got some blowers back there, so we wanted to get the blowers out. I couldn’t believe it. When I opened those doors and I saw that, I was like, ‘Oh man.’”
The source of the fire, a burnt-out work van once stocked with paint cans, compressors and two-by-fours, squatted in the back of the warehouse Monday while the Weickerts continued their assessment of the damage. They don’t know exactly how the blaze started, Eric said.
They do know it could be a debilitating blow to the business he and his family fought to create 30 years ago.
“This is everything to us,” he said. “I started the business a year after I graduated from college.”
Weickert’s wife, Carmen, worked three jobs to help him get started. His first office was in their home in Greenhills.
They moved to the Springfield Pike building in 1999 and eventually hired about 20 employees, Eric Weickert said. This year was going to be their 30th anniversary.
The fire is a tragedy, he acknowledged.
“It does create some challenges,” he added, especially with the rug-cleaning portion of the business. There's simply no place for cleaners to work at the moment.
Still, he said he has no plans to give up.
“We got a lot of families that depend on us,” he said.