Sofa store employees hurt in their own way
Employees of the Sofa Super Store don't compare their grief to that of the families of the fallen nine firefighters. But one company official said Wednesday that the employees are still hurting.
A bevy of lawsuits against the store and the possibility that one of their own may have accidently caused the deadly fire still weighs on employees a year later, company Vice President Becky Field said.
The cloud of litigation has caused uncertainty, and many employees wonder how long they will have jobs, she said. "That's talked about a lot. We are scared," she said.
The company has no choice but to stay in business for the welfare of its 70 workers, she said. Most opted to stay on despite being told that the company can't afford to give raises. "They are here because they want to be," Field said. "But we don't want to take the focus off the firefighters' families. What we have lost is nothing."
The company replaced the store with one on Wappoo Road and has others in Mount Pleasant and North Charleston.
Field said business is off. She doesn't know if that's a symptom of the sluggish economy or a "stigma" from the fire. "Not one customer has ever said anything hateful," she said. "They have supported us with open arms. But I read the blogs."
Charleston Mayor Joe Riley has said he holds store owner Herb Goldstein responsible for the deaths because of fire- and building-code violations at the store that contributed to the rapid spread of the blaze. Field said Goldstein was devastated by what happened.
As for the just-released ATF report on the fire, Field said she recognizes that an employee's improperly discarded cigarette may have ignited some old furniture. "Sure you think about it. I don't think any one would maliciously do it," she said.