Nowra’s Lyrebird Dry Cleaners staff devastated by the damage | South Coast Register Leave a comment


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LONG-TIME Lyrebird Dry Cleaners employees Vicki Lowbridge and Lisa Etheridge were devastated when they saw the damage to the business following an early morning Nowra CBD fire. The dry cleaners was totally destroyed in the fire which broke out around 1.30am on Thursday, January 28. The pair have worked at the Kinghorne Street store for a combined 35 years. The shock was even more pronounced as they believed the business had only suffered “some damage” after being told it “was believed the fire had started at the other end of the complex.” “It’s so much worse than we thought,” Mrs Lowbridge said. An early morning call from the security company alerted her that the shop’s alarm had been triggered and fire and police had been notified. Read more: Vicki is vision impaired, having lost her sight suddenly three years ago, and had to get her son to drive her into town. “We couldn’t get in and were stopped by police,” she said. “We were initially told it looked like it [the fire] had started in the kebab shop and made its way up. “So in my head I was thinking it’s really sad for the kebab and tattoo places and I thought we’d be okay. “But that’s not the case – the shop’s destroyed – it was quite a shock when we actually saw it – we’re not okay at all.” On top of the loss of the business is the fact that a number of wedding and bridesmaids’ dresses and other “precious” pieces of clothing have also been destroyed. Mrs Lowbridge, Mrs Etheridge, Louise Forbes and Sheree Maloney been running the business since their boss went overseas to New Zealand to visit his parents. Due to COVID he hasn’t made it back. “It’s been a hard slog to get through COVID,” Mrs Lowbridge said. “We have worked hard and were just coming out the other side, or so we thought.” The business has contracts with Defence and the navy and “a couple of really big wedding places” and is hopeful they “will stick by them”. “I don’t know what the navy is going to do now,” Mrs Lowbridge said. “Sure, we’ve lost the business but there are also wedding dresses, bridesmaids dresses and things like that people have lost. “We had a deceased estate with an old tuxedo which we just cleaned yesterday – it looked like it was circa 1920s. “People say it’s just clothes – but it’s not – they are precious to people. “And for us it’s our livelihood.” Ironically there were also about 100 fire suits inside the building. “They’ll probably be fine,” she said. Mrs Etheridge is the bridal manager, looking after all the gowns and wedding linen. She has called the business home for 20 years and said the damage was just as devastating. “We were under the impression the other two shops were the worst damaged – ours got damaged but not as bad – it’s totally the other way round,” she said. “The girls have all rallied together with our boss not here. We cut back our numbers and worked hard – we worked as a team, we do all the time and strived to do our best. “We’ve worked long hours to make it happen – our husbands have been fantastic through it all and supportive.” The fire could not have come at a worse time, with the women saying they had had one of their “best days ever” on Wednesday. “It was crazy busy,” Mrs Lowbridge said. “Revenue has been down which is why we are still on JobKeeper. Wednesday was one of the best days we’ve had in eight months – so this is pretty bittersweet. “We just hope those contracts will be there and will support us when we get back up and running.” We depend on subscription revenue to support our journalism. If you are able, please subscribe here. If you are already a subscriber, thank you for your support.

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