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Jilly's Dry Cleaners in Deal to be shut for months after fire

By Eleanor Perkins

The owners of a fire ravaged dry cleaners say they will "rise from the ashes" after initial fears their popular business was unsalvageable.

Jamie Stenhouse, who owns Jilly's Dry Cleaners in Deal with wife Jilly, was distraught after an overnight blaze tore through their Broad Street premises.

But a huge rush of community support has inspired the pair to come out fighting for their 15-year business, as they revealed it will take five months to rebuild.

The damage caused by the fire
The damage caused by the fire

Mr Stenhouse said: “We will be reopening.

“Last Wednesday morning, I just wanted the earth to open up and swallow me.

“But we started looking behind all the mess and things have happened since then.

“We've moved on and we plan to rise from the ashes. A lot of it is down to the response from the community.

“We've had some amazing, heartfelt messages of support from people.
"If everybody who has offered to help us turned up with a broom, we wouldn’t be able to get them all in the shop.

“We've been very moved. We've had tears at some points by people's kind words and generosity.”

Businesses have also rallied to support them with Angels Launderama in Queen Street and Mark Michaels dry cleaners in Margate offering to wash items.

The fire ripped through Jilly's new premises in Broad Street at 4.30am
The fire ripped through Jilly's new premises in Broad Street at 4.30am

And Channel Facilities Management, a cleaning service in Deal, provided cleaning agents to tackle the soot and grime on machinery.

Walls, equipment and clothing inside are blackened from what Mr Stenhouse described as a "freak accident".

The alarm was raised at 4.31am and crews in three fire engines battled the blaze with a a hose reel jet, two main jets and water from the hydrant.

The road was closed and reopened after they stood the operation down at 8.31am.

He said: “We think it was a spontaneous combustion in a bin of tea towels that had been washed and dried.

“We are always careful when we take them out to make sure they're cold.

“Some must have been warm, smouldered away, and bang, it's gone up.”

Jamie and Jilly Stenhouse say the clean-up operation is underway thanks to community support
Jamie and Jilly Stenhouse say the clean-up operation is underway thanks to community support

The couple started the business in Park Street in 2005 basing their venture on Mrs Stenhouse's experience working at a dry cleaning chain.

In October they moved to the new rented premises in Broad Street so Aldi could build a new supermarket at the former Co-operative.

Businesses from Park Street’s parade of shops moved out to other premises in town with the budget supermarket's help, allowing for the demolition work, which is ongoing.

The fire has spoiled what was supposed to be an exciting new phase for Jilly's in its new home.

A surveyor has estimated £130,000 worth of damage to the building which remains without power, water and gas.

There is damage to the main dry-cleaning machine and a steam cabinet, a press table and washing machine but Mr Stenhouse thinks 75-80% worth of clothing items can be recovered.

"We've had some amazing, heartfelt messages of support from people" - Jamie Stenhouse

Compensation is being paid to customers whose items can’t be saved.

Two tumble dryers have also been destroyed, but all other machines can be rebuilt or repaired.

There is smoke damage to all seven rooms upstairs. The flat above was vacant so there were no casualties.

While out of business, Jilly's has had to make two staff redundant but has guaranteed the workers can have their jobs back when it's up and running.

Customers who had left their property with them should get in touch by going into the shop and they will reimburse them.

All details have been saved on a computer which was salvaged.

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