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Platinum Pony owner after fire: ‘We built a home here in Easthampton’



Tuesday, October 13, 2015
EASTHAMPTON — Platinum Pony owner Kristen Davis hopes to reopen her Cottage Street bar and nightclub after it was heavily damaged in a Monday night fire — but said rebuilding will take time.

Firefighters responded to the 30 Cottage St. business just before 11:30 p.m. Monday, according to Easthampton Fire Chief David Mottor. The business was closed at the time of the fire and no injuries were reported. The cause is not yet known, and damage to the business and building is estimated at up to $175,000.

“They were able to put it out quickly, but unfortunately there’s significant damage,” Davis said Tuesday morning.

Two other nearby businesses — Platterpus Records at 28 Cottage St. and Rene’s TV Service at 26 Cottage St. — sustained smoke damage, Mottor said.

Davis drove to Easthampton from Boston early Tuesday morning after receiving calls and texts from her staff, who went to the scene upon hearing about the fire. Davis said she arrived around 4 a.m. to find firefighters still watching the building for hot spots.

Firefighters told her the building was filled with smoke when they arrived. The fire appeared to have started in the basement, they told her, and may have been sparked by an electrical problem.

“We have the state fire marshal here ... to assist us with cause, origin and the investigation,” Mottor told a reporter around 1:30 a.m. Tuesday. In a statement sent to the media several hours later, Mottor said the fire remained under investigation.

Davis said there appeared to be extensive damage to the building’s basement and kitchen area, and to the floor of the main bar and nightclub area. A hallway was “pretty much destroyed,” Davis said, with the floor caved in.

“I haven’t seen much because right now you can’t get very far into the building because of the damage — it’s not safe,” Davis said.

“We’ll work with the building owner and the insurance companies to get it back and going as soon as possible,” she said. “But unfortunately it takes time with damage this extensive.”

The business opened in 2011 as Popcorn Noir, a venue that showed movies and served cocktails and food. After extensive renovations the business reopened in August 2014 as the Platinum Pony, with its emphasis shifting to dance parties, live music, trivia nights and a variety of eclectic events. Davis said the business employs about 10 people, and its monthly slate of events can include over 100 performers.

In September 2014, the Platinum Pony closed for an evening to air out after a small fire in an appliance in the building’s basement.

Chief Mottor said at the time that someone plugged in a small rotisserie oven in the basement to see if it worked. The person did not notice that there was paper inside the oven — likely the appliance’s manual — and the paper caught fire while the oven was briefly left unattended.

That fire did not cause any injuries or damage to the business.

Neighboring businesses

Next door at Platterpus Records, owner Dave Witthaus — who was near Albany, New York when he received word of the blaze around 1 a.m. — had his doors propped open Tuesday morning to air out the shop, which sustained smoke damage in the fire. Firefighters also took down parts of the store’s ceiling to make sure the fire had not spread beyond the Platinum Pony.

“A HUGE shout out to the Easthampton Fire Department for doing a GREAT job in preventing further damage,” Witthaus wrote in a post to the store’s Facebook page.

Witthaus said it appears that none of his store’s merchandise, which includes an extensive selection of vinyl records, was destroyed. “I don’t think there was anything significantly damaged,” he said — but added that he wouldn’t be able to fully assess the situation until power was restored to the building.

Platterpus Records operated in Westfield for about 20 years before Witthaus briefly moved the shop to the Hampshire Mall, and then to Cottage Street in 2010.

On Cottage Street, Witthaus said, he found a “spectacular” business community that only improved with the opening of Popcorn Noir and then the Platinum Pony.

“Kristen came in and added just a vibrancy, really, to this whole area,” Witthaus said, adding that the Platinum Pony drew a clientele to the street that also benefited his business.

“It was just a little off-center, which was just great for my business, because most of my customers are a little off-center,” Witthaus said. “It was awesome.”

‘We built a home here’

Fire officials Tuesday morning estimated damage to the business and building at up to $175,000.

For Davis, though, it’s hard to assign a dollar amount to the business she’s built through what she called “a tremendous amount” of sweat equity.

“As I look around — every single wall I painted myself,” she said. “I built it with a jigsaw that I got at the Easthampton tag sale. So, when I look around I don’t see it as a monetary thing.”

Davis recalled watching the business and arts community in Easthampton grow over the past four years, and hosting state officials who visited during the process to designate Cottage Street a state cultural district.

“We built a home here in Easthampton, and being a part of this community is huge to us,” she said. “So now we figure out how to move forward, and what that looks like — what the next face of the Platinum Pony is.”

Sports editor Mike Moran contributed reporting.