Destroyed by fire, Heagy's won't reopen

May 05, 1993|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Staff Writer

Heagy's Sports Shop, the landmark Main Street sporting goods store destroyed in 1991 during Westminster's worst fire, will not reopen, its owner and attorney said yesterday.

"Their business was destroyed, and my guess is they have no intention of reopening anywhere," Heagy's lawyer Charles E. Stoner said yesterday, a day after two insurance companies filed lawsuits in Carroll County Circuit Court seeking nearly $480,000 in damages from the owner of the furniture refinishing shop where the blaze started.

The lawsuits, filed against William J. Stem, the owner of Stem's Used Furniture and Appliance Store, came more than a year after Mr. Stem was sued by D&L Sports Inc., the owners of Heagy's. That suit, which sought $500,000 from Mr. Stem, was settled in March for an undisclosed amount of money, court records show.

Montgomery Mutual Insurance Co., the Sandy Spring company that represents LeRoy Rosenstock -- the Bond Street businessman who leased space to Mr. Stem -- sued to recover the $468,375 it paid to cover the destruction of the building. Brethren Mutual Insurance Co., the Hagerstown company that represents White's Bicycles, also filed suit, seeking to recover the $10,759 it paid to cover the bicycle shop's losses.

"The fire was the direct and proximate result of Stem's conduct" in the "dangerous activity of furniture stripping," the lawsuits say. George E. Reede Jr., the lawyer who represents the insurance companies, declined to comment on the lawsuits yesterday.

Both Heagy's and Stem's occupied space in Mr. Rosenstock's building at 16 W. Main St. at the time of the five-alarm blaze on Nov. 17, 1991. The building was gutted by the fire and later demolished.

State fire marshals traced the origins of the blaze to a workshop where Mr. Stem did refinishing work. Officials said the fire began when vapors from a liquid used in the restoration of an antique chest exploded and flames quickly spread through the building.

As in the Heagy's case against Mr. Stem, the lawsuits filed Monday contend that Mr. Stem was negligent in failing to heed orders from fire officials after they found several fire code violations in his shop in July 1991.

Efforts to reach Mr. Stem since Monday were unsuccessful. A phone number at the home he formerly owned in Manchester was disconnected and the people who now live there said they did not know where Mr. Stem could be reached. No phone number for Mr. Stem is listed in Maryland, nor in southern Pennsylvania, where some people said he now lives.

David K. Skeen, Mr. Stem's attorney, declined to give a reporter Mr. Stem's phone number or address yesterday.

"There is another side to this story, but I don't wish to comment," Mr. Skeen said.

No criminal charges were filed against Mr. Stem in connection with the fire.

The fire, which began in the late afternoon, burned out of control for more than five hours, fueled by more than 10,000 square feet of furniture, stripping and refinishing chemicals in Stem's and by firearms ammunition in Heagy's.

Heagy's was known to generations of Carroll hunters. Once one of only two locations in the county where hunters could have their deer tagged and weighed, Heagy's also was a popular spot to buy hunting rifles, fishing equipment and other sporting goods.

Heagy's also was the only location in Carroll for Orioles fans to buy tickets to Memorial Stadium before the advent of electronic ticket networks.

A woman who answered the phone listed in the name of D&L principal Charles W. Nightingale Jr. confirmed Mr. Stoner's assessment of Heagy's future.

"The attorney is correct," said the woman, who declined to give her name.

, "We're not going to reopen."

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