Published: 05:00, 09 October 2021
A pet shop that was gutted by a serious fire which killed several animals is to reopen today.
Fire broke out inside Cuddles and Bubbles in Sheerness Broadway in May 2020 and volunteers rushed to the store to save as many animals as possible including tortoises, rats, bunnies, guinea pigs and the shop’s two cats.
Six fire crews spent four hours tackling the blaze, which started in a faulty electrical appliance, and, at the height of the inferno, firefighters were giving rescued animals oxygen in an attempt to revive them.
Sadly some died in the blaze, including Toby, an African Grey parrot, but owner Alec Smith said: “Thankfully, we saved more than we lost”.
Meanwhile the inside of the building, which was completely devastated by the fire, has had to be rebuilt over the past 16 months – all the while Cuddles and Bubbles has continued to trade out of another shop opposite, next to Barclays bank.
Mr Smith said: “The shop was completely gutted – it was down to the bare walls. We’ve had to have all the walls, floors, ceilings and joists re-done.”
The 59-year-old, of Sheerness, added: “We’re really looking forward to reopening now and welcoming everyone back – it’s been a long time coming.
“We’ve got a lot of new lines in and the whole concept of the shop has changed – we’ve got a brand new layout.”
When asked how the whole ordeal had been for him, Mr Smith said: “Very stressful, very upsetting and heartbreaking. One of the reasons we changed the concept of the shop is so that we don’t have any bad memories of how it used to be.
“We can’t wait to get back in there now.”
Mr Smith, who has been trading in Sheerness for 22 years, thanked everyone who helped him rebuild.
“We’d also like to thank T A Electrical, they’ve been extraordinary, Steve Evans, who has project managed things every day and done a marvellous job, DL Shopfitters and Joinery, and Jays Handyman Services.
“We’ve also had a whole new fire and security system installed by Dave and Lee from Omiga Fire and Security Ltd. I’d personally like to thank my staff as well – Megan, Paris, Steve and Katie – and all my close friends.”
At today's opening day, there will free gifts, special offers and animal face masks for children. There will also be a snake show-and-tell.