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‘You don’t know what you have until you lose it’: P.E.I. community helps potter recreate business after fire



STRATFORD, P.E.I. — For Robert McMillan, his pottery studio and enterprise had been his life.

So, when he stood and watched this previous October as every part he owned went up in flames – robbing him of greater than $150,000 price of kit, stock, provides, clay and the enterprise he thought-about to be “a really shut and expensive good friend” – it was virtually an excessive amount of to course of.

“To place in bluntly, you don’t know what you might have till you lose it,” McMillan advised SaltWire Community in an interview on Jan. 10.

However now, the proprietor of Robert McMillan Pottery Studio and Gallery, is shifting past his shock and unhappiness and beginning to put the items again collectively.

Understanding of a small, make-shift studio he has arrange in his house and with the assistance of many individuals, he’s decided to recreate the enterprise he holds so expensive.

October hearth

The hearth broke out on Oct. 17, within the 18,000-square-foot constructing on Mason Street the place McMillan’s enterprise was situated. The opposite main tenant was the P.E.I. Attain Basis. A number of hearth departments responded, however the constructing was gutted.

McMillan had opened the studio three years in the past.

“I used to be simply on the brink of take the subsequent step and begin increasing and creating the subsequent stage of my marketing strategy, which was to go larger,” he mentioned in an interview with SaltWire Community at his house on Jan. 10. “I had began offering pottery for different potters.”

The losses from the hearth had been greater than the bodily house.

McMillan may not maintain his pottery lessons, so he needed to reimburse the individuals who had already signed as much as research with him.

He needed to cancel his plans to attend Christmas exhibits, the place he would have bought his creations.

And he needed to cancel orders that he had sitting able to go within the studio, mentioned McMillan.

Prepared to assist

Though McMillan didn’t have insurance coverage, individuals have been responding with donations of supplies, gear and house to assist him get again in enterprise.

The latest present of help got here in a fundraiser on Jan. 7 that featured a couple of dozen Prince Edward Island performers.

McMillan’s studio wasn’t only for potters. It was additionally a gathering house, particularly for Island musicians who typically placed on exhibits there.

Todd MacLean, a P.E.I. entertainer, and Matt Clendinning, the proprietor of The Fortunate Bean cafes in Montague and Stratford, put the fundraiser collectively.

“I by no means performed within the house, however I went into the house a lot of instances, significantly as a result of Savannah took (pottery) classes there … and was a paying member of the house,” MacLean mentioned, referring to his spouse, Savannah Belsher-MacLean.

MacLean mentioned he actually bonded with McMillan after internet hosting a Fb Instagram discuss present about two years in the past wherein the pair talked about pottery and music. McMillan additionally sings and performs the guitar.

McMillan then began attending each one among MacLean’s exhibits, billed as Todd MacLean and Mates, at The Fortunate Bean.

“It has been an absolute pleasure to make the reference to Robert,” MacLean mentioned. “When this hearth occurred, I knew one thing needed to be performed for him so far as a fundraiser goes.”

Clendinning supplied The Fortunate Bean in Stratford as a venue to host the fundraiser, however then he and MacLean knew they’d want an even bigger venue when the variety of artists who had been coming to carry out grew.

The City of Stratford stepped in and supplied the occasions house on the Cross Roads Fireplace Division at no cost.

Greater than $2,600 was raised from that evening, which included a silent public sale.

These are some of the latest creations made by Stratford potter Robert McMillan. The business owner who lost everything in a fire in October has been working out of a small make-shift space in his home.  - Drew Bloksberg
These are a few of the newest creations made by Stratford potter Robert McMillan. The enterprise proprietor who misplaced every part in a fireplace in October has been figuring out of a small make-shift house in his house. – Drew Bloksberg


“I really feel so grateful to all of the musicians that had been a part of it,” MacLean mentioned. “They made the evening.”

McMillan mentioned the occasion touched him in methods he didn’t assume potential.

“It was simply unbelievable,” McMillan mentioned. “The love, the enjoyment, the connection, the help, the camaraderie, all of it lifted my coronary heart and my spirit. You don’t know who your actual associates are till you might be at your lowest. I misplaced every part, and so they got here out. I spotted what sort of associates I actually do have.”

McMillan has additionally acquired assist from the group.

A GoFundMe web page, which was arrange proper after the hearth, has raised greater than $28,000.

McMillan mentioned the cash helps to purchase new provides.

He’s additionally actively looking for house to open a brand new studio.

At a look

Following is assist Stratford potter Robert McMillan has acquired since a fireplace destroyed his enterprise in October:

  • His provider, Tuckers Pottery Inc. in Toronto, gave him a brand new kiln, which is valued at $8,000.
  • Princess Auto in Charlottetown gave him a brand new compressor, which is valued at $800.
  • Village Pottery in New London donated house to host workshops.
  • A fundraiser on Jan. 7 in Stratford pulled in $2,600.
  • GoFundMe campaign has raised greater than $28,000 thus far.

Dave Stewart is a reporter with the SaltWire Community in Prince Edward Island. He could be reached by e-mail at [email protected] and adopted on Twitter @DveStewart.

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