NEW HARTFORD — Paul Rossman and Cheri Clay lost their entire livelihood in a fire on Aug. 10.
The husband and wife, owners of Cool Stones Hot Rocks, located inside the destroyed building, faced more than a week of feeling devastated about the loss.
Now, though, Clay is back in her home studio handmaking jewelry once again, less than a month after the fire took away what was a perfect opportunity.
Their shop was just two minutes from their Pine Meadow home and had been their livelihood and only source of income for a few years. While Clay had been making jewelry for around 20 years, Rossman, a longtime artist and former chef, joined his wife in the business more recently by learning silversmithing and stone cutting.
“With the two of us we could ramp up our inventory,” Rossman said. “Things just grew. We got some notoriety.”
Even though the COVID-19 pandemic forced them to close their physical shop for several months, the online business — from which they sell handmade jewelry to customers across the world — took off.
“In January of this year, the online business was very strong, and we gradually built back the instore walk-in business,” Rossman said. “We were looking forward to a better year and everything and then on Aug. 10 it all went down the tubes.”
Rossman, recalling the fire, said he woke up in the middle of the night when the power turned off, but didn’t think too much of it or the fire engines racing past their home. It wasn’t until the morning that they’d realized what happened.
“We immediately raced up there. They had the road blocked off. The fire was pretty much out,” Rossman said.
The next thing they witnessed was the crushing image of a firefighter dousing the space there shop once stood with water. They had lost everything, including their entire online inventory, to the fire.
“It was just a pile of charred rubble,” Rossman said. “The first week or 10 days was the devastation point for us. We lost everything in that store. We had equipment, we had silver inventory, we had silversmithing tools. I had a couple of machines I worked on. All the inventory on the website was in the store. Everything came to a screeching halt. As good as the Internet business was, it stopped, because our inventory was zero.”
Eventually, the couple received a claim settlement based on their insurance policy. But they had to rely on friends providing them with financial support to purchase equipment and new inventory in order to get back to work.
“Our first order of business was to get Cheri a space to work again,” Rossman said. “The most important thing is that Cheri is back to work.”
The couple are in the process of converting a space in their home into a studio, where they will carry on the rest of their business as an online-only store, rather than seek a new brick and mortar location.
Already, the couple has received orders and sold out of new products, a sign of generosity from their longtime customers. The two also have received donations on their GoFundMe page.
“Our online customers who follow us, they’ve sent messages that as soon as we’re back up that they wanted to buy something,” Rossman said. “They were really supportive. In the first weekend she posted things, it all sold out.”
That was a good feeling for the two, who had to grapple with the loss in August. Luckily, Clay’s former career as an occupational therapist help the two put things in perspective.
“It was great for us to talk and work out the impact that the loss had,” Rossman said. “We both dealt with it pretty well. We justified that nobody was hurt. It was only stuff. Even though some of that stuff had meaning to us.”
Now, they’re getting back to doing what they love, which is being creative.
“The whole premise for her with the jewelry is to create a one of a kind piece so that when somebody bought it they knew they got the only one,” Rossman said.