HBURG_explosion

The Harrisonburg Fire Department gathers in front of a local business after the explosion on Oct. 17.

Kyle Coleman was at his home near CrossKeys Vineyards when he felt the explosion shake the doors of his garage. Coleman, the owner of Bluestone Bike & Run, said 10 minutes later when he was at the kitchen table with his children, his phone rang.

Around 8:30 a.m. Saturday, an explosion and subsequent fire in the Miller Circle shopping center sent the Friendly City into action.

While Coleman’s bike shop isn’t located in the building directly affected, he was notified that his store, which is directly across from the shopping center, had been damaged as well. 

“All the windows are blown out, the door’s blown in, the van windshield is busted, windows blown out of that as well,” Coleman said. “So it was, it was bad, and we want to just cover up for safety.”

After the blast occurred, he said his phone was ringing “off the hook” and that the owners of two other bike shops in Harrisonburg called him to ask if he needed any help storing his merchandise.

“That shows something that we have a unique community,” Coleman said. “That’s not going to happen everywhere.”

H’burg music community devastated by loss of industry cornerstones

Just hours after the fire began, the Harrisonburg community rallied behind some of the local businesses impacted. Members of two local music groups, Prince Bellerose, a soul/rock power trio, and Paracosm, a five-piece psychedelic band, started a GoFundMe page for Blue Sprocket and Hometown Music, two of the businesses destroyed by the fire.

After just over a day, the relief fund had raised $12,595, surpassing its original goal of $10,000.  Since then, the fund’s goal was increased to $20,000 and, as of Wednesday morning, $20,265 had been donated. 

Ethan Morris, a member of Paracosm, said he also felt the rumble of the explosion from his home two miles away. It wasn’t until he began scrolling through Facebook that he realized a local music store that he frequented since he was a teenager and a small recording studio, where his band recorded its first EP, had been destroyed. 

Morris said Val Prince, a member of Prince Bellerose, was the one to get the ball rolling on creating a GoFundMe. He said the two groups knew that Blue Sprocket and Hometown were cornerstones of the Harrisonburg music scene, providing gear and recording space to local artists for years, and wanted to immediately show their support and gratitude.

“I want to see these two businesses get back on their feet because, you know, I love being able to walk into a guitar shop and, you know, pick up an instrument and mess around with the pedal, buy a pack strings, you know, just being able to walk downtown and do that, as opposed to having to buy it off of some website,” Morris said. “It’s so convenient, and it’s just a much warmer feeling when you’re helping out your neighbor, and your neighbor’s helping you out and getting you set up with equipment.”

Since the explosion, relief funds have also been started on GoFundMe for the Harrisonburg Halal Market, Naza Salon and Barber Shop, and Funky’s Skate Center.

Morris said his band Paracosm will join Rev. Bill’s Confessional in a livestream concert from the Golden Pony on Oct. 25 at which all the donations collected will go toward this GoFundMe to support Blue Sprocket and Hometown Music.

Owner opens up

For one of the owners and founders of Blue Sprocket, Chris Jackson, the outpouring of support has made him almost more emotional than the event itself. He said he’s still “baffled” that one second those businesses were there, and now they’re gone. The only word he could think of to describe it was, “overwhelming.”

“It’s all a little crazy, so I don’t know that I have good words for all of it,” Jackson said. “It feels incredible to have been loved by a community so much that they’re willing to, you know, contribute towards a cause, not having any idea, you know, if these businesses can come back.”

Jackson said he’s focusing on the present and will likely have to undergo extensive insurance claims and other damage control before his business can begin to rebuild.

“These were businesses that were built over time, with lots of care and sort of the stereotypical blood, sweat and tears,” Jackson said.

Fortunately, Blue Sprocket’s younger sister company, Blue Sprocket Pressing, which manufactures vinyl records, wasn’t severely damaged by the blast. However, that doesn’t replace the recording studio where many local artists and JMU a capella groups have produced their albums for years.

“I get the impression that we’re going to be very looked after by everyone in our community, both individual and business alike, to the extent that people are able,” Jackson said. “There has just been an overwhelming outpouring of support and everything from kind words to obviously financial contributions and everything in between.”

While Jackson is still processing that his business has turned to rubble, he’s thankful everyone in and around the shopping center survived.

“I saw the gentleman that owns the Halal market [Saturday] while it was all going on, and we were just very happy to see each other were alive and well,” Jackson said.

As the Harrisonburg community was rocked by the explosion, the Miller Circle business owners like Jackson have lost not just their possessions in the fire, but also the stores they worked hard to create. Jackson said there really are no words to describe it.

“Right now it’s just, it’s a lot,” Jackson said.

Katelyn Waltemyer contributed reporting. 

Contact Ryann Sheehy at sheehyrl@dukes.jmu.edu. For more coverage of JMU and Harrisonburg news, follow the news desk on Twitter @BreezeNewsJMU.