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Evansville
Friday, September 30, 2022

Born From Ashes

The smell of smoke and sounds of crackling wood trigger Kim Hanor’s memories of Sept. 3, 2015. The assistant manager of Kitchen Interiors was the first to realize the lumberyard behind the building had caught fire, which would later destroy the 6,000-square-foot store located next to Kight Home Center off Morgan Avenue.

A discarded cigarette in the back of the building set the blaze off at Kitchen Interiors, a division of Kight, which showcases kitchens, cabinetry, and countertops. While fortunately no employees or clients were injured, the store would be without an independent operating base for the next six months.

“The fire department arrived and as you’re standing there in real time watching, things are moving in slow motion and they couldn’t get water on that fire fast enough,” says Hanor, who grew up in Monroe, Ohio, and attended the University of Kentucky. “One of the drawbacks of where our building was is the back of the building was used for dimensional lumber storage and they were like kindling. That’s why it went so fast.”

Today, Hanor celebrates the smells of fresh wood and new furniture and sounds of pounding hammers as Kitchen Interiors reopened in a new location at 5800 E. Virginia St. in mid-February. The new space is 8,000 square feet and features four lines of kitchen cabinetry including Aristocraft, Wellborn, Kitchen Jewels, and Kemp, shower and bath displays, Delta plumbing fixtures, door selections, stone samples, and more.

“You never want to think tragedy is a blessing, but sometimes it is,” she says. “We are bigger, we are better, we are prettier, we are cleaner. It is like a new start. It is a fresh beginning. We are all excited.”

The result could have looked much different, says Kitchen Interiors Manager Brad Hershberger. In 2005, Carter Lumber of Kent, Ohio, purchased Kitchen Interiors and Kight Home Center, which began as Kight Lumber in 1957 in Newburgh, Indiana. In 1961, Kitchen Interiors opened.

“We just had so much support being part of a bigger company,” says Hershberger, who grew up in Michigan, and attended the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. “That sped things along tremendously. We weren’t just left to fend for ourselves.”

Immediately following the fire, the staff of Kitchen Interiors moved in vacant offices at Kight Home Center, and “just made it work,” says Hanor. Kight Home Center employees pitched in and helped recover what they could out of the former building, and Carter’s technology department retrieved all of the hard drives from their computers. The president and vice president of Carter traveled to Evansville and toured several properties with the location on Virginia as their top choice. Four to six weeks after the fire, the lease was signed with an option to buy.

“Carter moved very quickly trying to determine what would be the best option for us whether it was to rebuild the existing location, rebuild a remote location, or lease or rent an existing location,” says Hanor. “They looked at several properties and were impressed with this and thought this would be the fastest route to get us back up and running. It will be five or six months, but that is pretty quick.”

“It would have taken a year to rebuild the other building,” adds Hershberger.

Kitchen Interiors employs eight full-time designers with a full-time receptionist. Each designer was given free reign to design his or her own office, and the conference room has a custom-made conference table by Carter Lumber, a flat screen TV, and electronic fireplace from Kight Home Center. The new space has allowed the showroom to present more than ever, expand its lines, and add products it never had offered before, such as garage cabinetry.

Several products from Kight can be seen throughout the showroom to encourage referrals to customers. Kitchen Interiors often works with regional manufacturers allowing quick response times and the ability to customize any piece.

“If you can dream it, they can design it,” says Hershberger.

Throughout the transition, Hanor says sales haven’t been adversely affected.

“We have great relationships with our contractors we serve and they have stuck with us. We are lucky there,” she says.

The two managers credit Troy Kough, president of Kight Home Center; Ryan Hill, director of sales for Kight, Carter, and Kitchen Interiors; Jeff Seder, senior vice president at Carter Lumber; and Jeff Donley, president of Carter Lumber with their assistance in moving the store forward.

“It was their insistence that we get up and running again as quickly as possible,” says Hershberger. “As Carter Lumber, they are a large company, and they self-insure up to $1 million of any loss. We lost a million dollars and there wasn’t a dime worth of insurance, but that didn’t stop them from coming back in and reinvesting money back into this facility. To maintain the employment of all the employees here and to keep the sales maintained, we are grateful they were involved.”

For more information about Kitchen Interiors, call 812-473-5251 or visit kighthomecenter.com/projects/kitchen-interiors.

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