Lehigh businesses help destroyed carpet store

Local rivals unite after blaze to assist Culver Carpet & Vinyl

By JUSTIN ST. CLAIR
JSTCLAIR@NEWS-PRESS.COM
Published by news-press.com on May 7, 2005


Michael and Vicki Culver knew they had friends in Lehigh Acres, but even their business rivals have given them a helping hand after a fire destroyed their store earlier this week.

Culver Carpet & Vinyl on Homestead Road was gutted early Monday morning. Deputies arrested Issac Posada, 21, of 103 E. Leeland Heights Blvd., Lehigh Acres, a few hours later. He was charged with arson, tampering with evidence and burglary in connection with the blaze.

Many friends and neighbors have offered to help haul away debris and clean up, Vicki Culver said.

"The whole community has come forward," Vicki Culver said, fighting back tears. "It's overwhelming."

Even local competitors such as Taylor Carpet One and Lehigh Discount Furniture are offering their help to keep the business running through its recovery.

Karen Krumpe, a sales associate at Taylor Carpet One on Lee Boulevard, called the Culvers after the fire and offered to take deliveries, deliver carpets to the Culvers' customers, or do anything else needed.

"They are competition, but it's a small town. Everybody needs to help everybody," Krumpe said.

Lehigh Discount Furniture, located near the Culvers' store on Homestead Road, also offered to help, even though it also sells carpet and flooring. It has begun taking deliveries for the Culvers.

Lehigh Discount Furniture owner Randy Burns said there is a sense of unity among small business owners in Lehigh, even those who are competitive.

"I felt it was the right thing to do," Burns said. "They have enough to deal with."

Culver said she and her husband are now operating the carpet business out of their gift shop, Home for All the Holidays, on Homestead Road, next door to the carpet store.

They plan to move the carpet store into temporary quarters in the Real Estate Centre on Lee Boulevard, where they can take their own deliveries until the store can be rebuilt. Culver said she hopes to have the store restored within a year.

Michael Culver said the fire caused between $500,000 and $1 million in damage. He said he would know more precisely once a full inventory could be done.

The Culvers, both 57, opened the carpet store shortly after moving to Lehigh from Pennsylvania 20 years ago. They moved the business into its current location 10 years ago.

Vicki Culver said she still is baffled by the act that destroyed the couple's years of work.

"I will never understand how someone could do that," she said.