While many might chalk up 2020 as a terrible, horrible year, Toni Chambers-Jackson is counting her blessings.
Chambers-Jackson is reopening her furniture and interior design store, Silk Greenery Home, on Saturday, just two months after losing everything in the Oct. 5 blaze that destroyed her former location in the Fort Mylner Shopping Center on St. Thomas.
“I have a tremendous staff. There’s probably seven of us. They have helped at every turn. We absolutely lost everything,” said Chambers-Jackson, who unveiled her new location at the Wheatley Center II on Raphune Hill, across from Fruit Bowl, on Friday.
“The other side of it is, I’ve been in the business for 30 years … and once we contacted our suppliers and said we had a fire, they were very good about getting product out,” said Chambers-Jackson, who is the area distributor for numerous upscale brands.
Not that reopening so quickly after such a huge loss has been without its challenges.
“The fire is one thing,” Chambers-Jackson said, “but COVID-19 is another.”
While suppliers wanted to fulfill orders, few have fully staffed warehouses right now, even though the busiest buying season is from October to March, Chambers-Jackson said.
“They were most gracious about getting out the smaller things we needed,” she said.
Then there was Ida Nibbs, who has worked with Chambers-Jackson for 29 years and found their new location after countless hours scouring listings and road signs for places to rent.
“I think she took this all harder than me,” said Chambers-Jackson, who said the new store is the same square footage as her old one.
The building, a former Department of Planning and Natural Resources office, needed extensive renovations to turn it into the new Silk Greenery Home, and Chambers-Jackson credits the company Dongeio with completing the work “in an incredibly short amount of time.”
It was not something Chambers-Jackson initially thought was feasible, admitting that in the days after the fire, part of her just wanted to quit.
“My husband, he’s my biggest cheerleader, and he said, ‘You can’t do that!’” Chambers-Jackson said of Frank Jackson, a St. Thomas attorney she wed in 1981 after they met in 1979 at the Carnival Children’s Parade.
Encouraged, Chambers-Jackson and her Silk Greenery team set up a space in her husband’s office and got down to business, reconstructing the paperwork for the insurance claim since every record was lost in the fire, she said.
Beyond the support of family and co-workers, encouragement from the community has energized and inspired her efforts to reopen her business, Chambers-Jackson said.
“There are these things that bring tears to my eyes,” Chambers-Jackson said, recalling how right after the fire she received phone calls from customers on St. John, “asking if we could come and furnish their homes.” Thinking they had not heard about the blaze, she told them the news, “and they would say, ‘I know.’ Person after person.”
Even competitors stepped up to offer help, she said, recalling how Genie Lupo of ReUse Emporium and ReNew Emporium in the Bovoni Center called her after the fire.
“She reached out to me and said, ‘Listen, I don’t know how it would work, but you could come and set up here.’ I just think that is most kind. I so appreciate that, too,” Chambers-Jackson said.
“On the community side, it has been nothing but an outpouring of good wishes. Just kinder than you know. That keeps me going.”
Silk Greenery Home was scheduled to reopen Saturday at its new location at Wheatley Center II on Raphune Hill, St. Thomas. Further information is available by calling 340-714-7993, visiting the store’s website, or finding them on Facebook.