Memories Beyond the Blaze (With Photos)

By Erika Mahoney

January 4, 2013 Updated Jan 7, 2013 at 10:23 AM EST

Binghamton, NY (WBNG Binghamton) Together with what's left of the smoldering rubble and burned out walls at 115 Montgomery St. are the feelings of nostalgia for a former owner of the old Pa's Woodshed.

When Brian VanNamee first found out the building was crumbling in flames, he said a wave of relief hit him.

"I was in bed when I found out that the fire had broken out and my first thought was, there goes another eyesore in Binghamton," VanNamee said.

But when he drove by the building early Thursday morning, flames were still reaching into the sky, and the memories came flooding back.

"It was like losing my dad again, it was emotional," he said, holding back tears. "I mean I tried not to be emotional about it, but I grew up there and there's a lot of memories with my parents."

His parents took over the store in 1972, when VanNamee was just 13 years old. And they put him straight to work.

The blaze may have taken down the building, but he said his memories of the store's glory days, the constantly packed parking lot. The welcoming atmosphere and especially the big chair on top, will never fade.

"I guess it was just a landmark, it was in the Book of World Records," VanNamee said. "When [people] found out you were from Binghamton, they'd ask me if I knew where the big chair was and, of course, it was a part of our building."

Brian VanNamee said his family owned the store until 1995. The current owner declined an interview.

In 1988, VanNamee's wife, Debbie, became a part of the store, too. Looking back, she said moments of joy filled every corner.

"When we had a sale, like Brian said, all the customers lining up, waiting to get in, our kids growing up there, our kids jumping off the banister into the big chair," Debbie VanNamee said. "Just running around the inside of the building. It was just so big, so many places to go, so many places to play hide-and-seek."

All those spaces, once filled with handmade pieces, sawdust and sweat are now just pieces, much like the iconic chair that once graced its roof -- gone but never forgotten.

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