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Salisbury Millwork to rebuild, company president says

By Emily Ford
Salisbury Post
The president of Salisbury Millwork, the business that burned to the ground Friday killing two firefighters, says he will rebuild.
Company officials have yet to determine how they will rebuild and to what extent, President Norde Wilson said.
And they haven’t decided what type of building to construct.
But they do know when they will rebuild ó as soon as possible.
“No question,” Wilson said.
The painful loss of everything at the 80,000-square-foot operation except a few dust silos and a warehouse does not compare to the loss of the firefighters, Wilson said.
“The worst tragedy of the whole thing is that two firemen lost their lives,” he said. “We can replace what we lost, but those poor families can’t.”
Justin Monroe, 19, and Victor Isler, 40, died fighting the five-alarm blaze, which may go down in history as Salisbury’s worst.
Jobs safe
Despite losses projected at $2 million and the destruction of nearly all records, no Salisbury Millwork employees will lose their job, Wilson said.
“We are going to take care of them,” he said.
The company will continue to pay its 35 employees. Some eventually will collect unemployment until Salisbury Millwork can place them at temporary locations.
Area woodworking and millwork businesses have offered to let Wilson’s employees use their space and machinery to complete Salisbury Millwork orders. Several employees already have been placed.
Astoundingly, Wilson does not anticipate canceling any orders or even missing many deadlines.
“If there is a good side to this thing, it’s that some wonderful people came out of the woodwork and made offers that were very generous,” he said.
Beautiful church railing was finished and ready for delivery, Wilson said. But like many of the company’s completed orders, it burned.
Wilson promised the contractor new railing in three weeks.
“He said, ‘Oh that soon? After what you folks have been through?’ ” Wilson said. “I hope the others are as understanding.”
Salisbury Millwork hosted a breakfast Monday morning at the Holiday Inn for its employees, where they learned they will keep their jobs.
“They are a very good bunch,” Wilson said. “I don’t want to lose a single one of them.”
Company officials spent the weekend planning and sorting things out, he said. They wanted to tell employees, some of whom have worked at Salisbury Millwork for decades, as quickly as possible.
“The sooner they know, the better they can sleep,” he said.
Family help
Salisbury Millwork could not get back on its feet without the help of a similar business nearby, Wilson said.
Goodman Millwork Inc. will serve as temporary headquarters for the burned-out business. Owner Franco Goodman also will loan space and machinery to Salisbury Millwork’s employees.
But that’s what families are for.
Kay Wilson, Norde Wilson’s wife, owns Salisbury Millwork with her brothers, Tom and John Goodman, and their cousin, Jeff Goodman.
Her other cousin, Franco Goodman, owns Goodman Millwork.
The two businesses do not compete. Salisbury Millwork manufacturers commercial woodwork, while Goodman Millwork focuses on residential woodwork, Kay Wilson said.
Another cousin, Mickey Goodman, offered to send equipment to Salisbury, Wilson said.
Her father started Salisbury Lumber in 1947, which eventually became Salisbury Millwork.
Strangely similar to Friday’s tragic event, a fire broke out at Salisbury Lumber in 1959. An employee coming to work around 7 a.m. discovered the blaze, just like Friday’s fire.
The Salisbury Post called the 1959 fire the worst in the city’s history.
The Goodmans rebuilt then, too.
Going on
Salisbury Millwork won a $750,000 contract to provide architectural woodwork for the N.C. Research Campus in Kannapolis.
While other orders burned on Friday, the casings, wainscot, cabinets, paneling and more for the UNC Nutrition Research Center are safe and sound in trailers on campus, awaiting installation.
That’s consolation for Norde Wilson.
Although he turns 75 in August, Wilson said he won’t use the fire as a reason to retire. He can’t.
“I have too many responsibilities,” he said. “I can’t walk away from them.”
Many of his employees are sole providers for their families. One is expecting his fifth child,
When a business burns down, it helps to have a good bank. Wilson said he has two of the best, F&M and Bank of North Carolina. He gave special thanks to Paul Fisher, George Kluttz and Mark Lewis.
Wilson has talked with federal fire investigators three times. Although they haven’t let him near the building, they did allow him on the site.
“Awful,” Wilson said.
As bad as it made him feel to see the historic plant turned to rubble by flames so hot they derailed three rescue efforts, Wilson continued to talk about the firefighters who perished.
“Anybody who will walk into a burning building on behalf of someone else is a braver man than I am,” Wilson said.
“There’s no soldier who’s ever picked up a gun and gone into battle who’s any braver than that.”
Contact Emily Ford at eford@salisburypost.com.

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