Photo by Max Efrein.
Kim and Bill Gagnon had been looking for a building to purchase for their business, The Plumbing Store, for about seven years.
They were eager to stop dumping their money into leasing and instead invest in a property they could call their own.
Finding a property that suited their needs proved difficult, however.
“For whatever reason, we’ve made a couple offers, but nothing’s panned out,” Kim said.
That quickly changed when they saw that the lot right behind their storefront along 6th Street in Prescott was up for sale.
“I had always said to [Bill] that if that building ever came up, it would be perfect,” Kim said.
It wasn’t just any building, however. It had housed Prescott’s Granite Mountain Hotshots before 19 of the 20-member crew died fighting the Yarnell Hill Fire on June 30, 2013.
This fact neither inhibited nor motivated their decision to acquire the property, Kim said.
“We never thought about the implications of buying the building or the emotions of everybody,” she said. “That never even came into our thoughts.”
They instead simply saw it as an ample opportunity for the sake of their business.
“I’m not trying to do anything malicious,” Bill said. “I’m just a hardworking regular guy.”
The families of the fallen firefighters were exclusively presented the opportunity to purchase the building earlier this year, but the two-and-a-half-month waiting period given to them produced no proposals by the May 1 deadline.
Therefore, the sale was opened up to the public and the Gagnon’s offer of $362,500 beat out the competition. All of that money will help pay down the city’s more than $78 million shortfall with the Public Safety Personnel Retirement System (PSPRS), according to city officials.
As soon as it was announced that the Gagnon’s offer was accepted, Kim began to receive calls and emails from concerned parties.
“Probably the day of the closing, I would say we got four or five calls and I would say three or four emails,” Kim said.
Some were requesting that the Gagnons drop out of the sale. Other were asking for them to donate the property to serve as a permanent memorial for the Hotshots.
“To one gentleman I said ‘I really want you to think about what you’re asking me to do,’” Kim said.
One of the calls was from Amanda Marsh, the widow of fallen Hotshot Superintendent Eric Marsh.
“She wanted to know our intentions,” Kim said.
After some explanation, Kim believes they came to a cordial understanding.
While Marsh was unavailable for comment for this story, she did express her approval of the situation during a Prescott City Council meeting on July 25.
“I have spoken with the company that wants to buy this, and I feel like they are very interested in working with the families to continue to honor the legacy of the crew at this location,” Marsh told the council. “And to me, that’s a big deal.”
Kim confirmed this, saying that they have no intention of destroying or removing anything of particular significance to the families.
“The only thing we are doing is painting and redoing flooring and a couple things to spruce it up,” Kim said.
The true memorial on the site is a bench and accompanying art piece. Carved into the bench are the words Granite Mountain Hotshots. The art piece features 19 metal crosses with ribbons attached to them.
The city asked the Gagnons to leave the bench there until the families decide what to do with it.
“It’s welcomed to stay there however long or forever if they want,” Kim said.
Since purchasing the property, the Gagnons have noticed that people will frequently stop and visit the site to take pictures or try to walk through the building.
The Gagnons have been permitting much of this, but hope that people understand it’s not a museum.
“We’re treating it like a normal business, and what we’re hoping is that people will respect that,” Kim said.
As it stands, Kim hopes they’ll wrap up the renovation to the building and be fully moved in by the end of November.
Bill, on the other hand, thinks it will take them until the end of December.
“Ideally, we will meet in the middle,” Kim said.