PALMER, Alaska (KTUU) - A Palmer business providing employment opportunities for at-risk youth burned in a structure fire early Tuesday. Now, the owner is receiving support from the community he's helped to improve.
Jim Beach was visiting family in Kansas City when he says he got a call from the Palmer Police Department telling him his business, an auto detailing service called Car Deets, had caught fire.
"My first thought was I was just glad it happened early in the morning when nobody was there working," Beach said, "so nobody got hurt."
Beach says the fire started due to an electrical issue in the attic of the building he rents on Alaska St. While he doesn't know the extent of the damage to the building, he estimates he lost about $50,000 worth of equipment and tools in the fire. He says insurance only covers half of that.
But Beach is looking on the bright side of things.
"One of the things that I love most about Palmer is that everybody supports everybody else," he said. Since the fire, Beach says people have come out of the woodwork to offer condolences and support.
"In other parts of the country, you just don't see the kind of community that we have here in Palmer," Beach said.
It might be that Beach has earned the love and respect of his neighbors. Since opening the store in 2013, he's made a point of hiring homeless and abandoned youth in Palmer. He says sometimes all it takes to motivate someone is just giving them the opportunity.
"I think the magic for anybody that details cars is through their own physical effort -- they get to see a transformation take place that they can be proud of," Beach said.
"What continues to motivate me to offer jobs and support for homeless teens, for displaced teens, is we've been able to see over the years the positive impact that you can have on someone's life by investing even a little bit," he continued.
Veronica Rendulic was one of the recipients of Beach's kindness. Before she started working for him, she says she was an aimless "stoner" with no ambition for self-improvement. She says Beach taught her the value of hard work, and has been one of the primary father figures in her life.
"Meeting Jim and having somebody that actually believed in me and saw the potential ... he changed my life," Rendulic said. "I worked really hard. I didn't want to let him down."
Her hard work has paid off. She is now close to finishing her bachelor's degree, and is working towards a master's in forensic psychology. She attributes that success in large part to the chance Beach gave her six years ago.
Beach had customers lined up to get their cars detailed the week of the fire. He has been frantically searching for a new location to be able to service his clients. Kevin Cilk, owner of Trailtoyz Offroad in Wasilla, has offered up his auto shop for Beach to use on a part-time basis while he looks for a new permanent location.
"We've known Jim a long time," Cilk said. "Hes a community member and a small business, and that's what we are. So he's going to have use of this whole shop, we're going to clean it up for him."
Beach says plans to take Cilk up on his generous offer, and he will begin servicing clients at the Trail Toyz shop on Wednesday.
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