By EMMALEE C. TORISK
Despite its keeping a lower-than-usual profile in the past month, Struthers Chair and Tent Rental is still open and isn’t going anywhere, its owner says.
SDLqI’m not completely back, but I’m back,” said Joe Lattanzio, who has owned the company since the early 1990s. “I don’t know what else I would do.”
Less than 24 hours after fire destroyed the 625 Spring St. building that housed Struthers Chair and Tent Rental, Lattanzio vowed that he would rebuild. But actually doing so has proved more difficult than anticipated.
For one, the May 26 blaze consumed $360,000 worth of Lattanzio’s equipment, including tents, tables and chairs. His insurance will cover only $60,000 of those losses, however. That amount is just a fraction of what he needs, but it will help to keep him in business, he said.
But Betsy Kirkwood, owner of Artists at Work on Elm Street, wants to do more for Lattanzio, a customer of hers for the past 20 years.
She is organizing a fundraiser for him and his business that will include food, a raffle and an auction, and will take place from noon to 5 p.m. Aug. 10 at AMVETS Post 44, 305 Elm St. T-shirts showing the wearer’s support for Struthers Chair and Tent Rental also will be available for $10.
“I was devastated when I heard” about the fire, Kirkwood said. “I can’t imagine a total loss like he had. ... I said, ‘We need to do something.’”
So far, the response to the fundraiser from both individuals and other area businesses has been great, with many already making donations of items and services, Kirkwood said. Even those who don’t know Lattanzio want to do what they can to help, likely because of the favorable reputation that precedes him.
Lattanzio always is “dedicated to keeping his promises,” and also has long given customers the best, fairest prices that he can, Kirkwood added.
“Everything is based on reputation,” she said, “and I can speak nothing but highly of him.”
Kirkwood said she’s hoping to raise at least $5,000 to help Struthers Chair and Tent Rental — which had moved from 111 Elm St. about five months before the fire so employees would have more room to construct new tents — even though she knows Lattanzio lost equipment that cost much more.
Still, any donation will help, she added.
And though Lattanzio said he’s the type of person who would “rather do for someone else,” he said he appreciates the effort.
He has only 10 tents available for events right now and “can only do so much.” He’s also been temporarily working out of his garage, until a neighboring building, also owned by the Lyon Creed Corp. of Struthers, is ready for him to move in.
The destroyed building, built about 60 years ago, was estimated at being worth $70,000. Lattanzio said the cause of the fire was left undetermined.
“With no money in the bank, I thought, ‘How am I going to buy this?’” Lattanzio said. “A lot of things won’t be replaced, but I’ll stay in business.”
For more information about the Aug. 10 fundraiser, contact Artists at Work at 330-755-4922.