ETNA, Maine — Four months ago, Andy Watson’s business burned to the ground. Today, he’s back to work in a new building.
Watson’s Custom Butcher Shop on Carter Road caught fire on January 27.
“Flat. Absolutely flat. There was absolutely nothing here,” said Watson of what was left of his business.
Watson said he lost furnaces, heaters, coolers, tools and 20,000 pounds of customers’ meat in the blaze.
“I used to joke that I was a butcher without a knife. We lost everything,” he said.
With the help of J.M. Brown Construction of Hampden and other contractors, Watson is back in business. Last Friday, Watson’s crew was smoking pork for the first time in the new building.
“If it wasn’t for J.M. Brown contractors, I wouldn’t be here,” said Watson.
He said they built the new building on the existing slab, and it looks mostly the same as the old one.
“They didn’t really have any blueprints. They went by what I had to tell them,” Watson said. “I was standing there when they were doing it.”
Most things were kept the same, he said.
“It’s all the same equipment. We just changed a few things,” said Watson. “We made it a little more energy efficient. We put in some different light fixtures, better insulation. Everything is basically right back the way it was.”
Watson said the investigator from his insurance company pointed to a refrigeration unit as the cause of the fire. The insurance company paid for about 75 percent of the cost to rebuild, he said.
“They paid us everything we were due. We just didn’t have our insurance up to where it should have been. Like the rest of the world, we were underinsured,” said Watson, who estimated the cost to rebuild at $345,000.
The butcher shop was inspected on May 11 and reopened three days later, he said. The business initially opened five years ago on the fifth-generation farm.
“I haven’t had a complaint from anyone about going to work,” said Watson.
Work had been waiting for him, he said, as customers patiently waited for his business to be back up and running.
“I didn’t realize this business meant as much to the community and the people around here as it does,” said Watson. “Our cooler is full. We have work coming out of our ears. We’re very, very lucky. I’ve been talking to other butcher shops around and they have absolutely no work.”
Watson said he’s done little advertising since opening in order to get the work completed for customers he had lined up.