MDI naturalist shop tries to recover from water damage

Posted July 16, 2013, at 4:53 p.m.

BAR HARBOR, Maine — As naturalists and kayakers, Rich MacDonald and Natalie Springuel are used to getting a little wet.

But usually it happens when they are outside looking for birds or marine mammals. So when a recent sprinkler system leak inundated their Natural History Center retail store on Firefly Lane, they were unprepared for how it would affect their business.

Some of the equipment and many of the items in the store, from field guides and binoculars to toy birds and clothing, got soaked. The shop has been closed since the early morning July 7 incident while repairs are being made.

Springuel said Tuesday that they don’t have a monetary estimate for the damage yet but it “easily” will be more than $10,000. She said she and MacDonald are worried that it might be too costly for their business to survive.

The couple is dealing with the insurance companies involved — theirs, the insurer for the tavern upstairs where the sprinkler system burst, and that of the building owner — to sort out how the various policies might help pay for the repairs and lost inventory. Other businesses in the same building did not sustain as much damage as their shop.

In the meantime, the nature tour side of The Natural History Center still is functioning, even though the shop is closed, Springuel said. Springuel, who also works full time for Maine Sea Grant, said MacDonald does most of the work running the business, with some help from their young daughter.

Springuel said Tuesday they hope to open the shop again by this coming weekend, and in the meantime their contact information is posted in the front window. They book a lot of tours from walk-in customers, she said, many of whom come back for more the following summer.

Their tour bookings are starting to pick back up again since last week, she said. Friends and customers have helped by moving undamaged merchandise to the couple’s home in the local village of Town Hill, and area businesses have lent a hand by spreading the word that the center is open for tours. They also are trying to find temporary ways to sell undamaged merchandise, either by appointment or through other local retail shops, she said.

Springuel said the experience — cleaning up, repairing the damaged walls and ceiling, talking to insurance companies, replacing damaged inventory — has been “staggering.” But the paid and volunteer help they have received, she added, has been encouraging.

“We’re quite thankful for the support,” Springuel said.

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