An East Setauket business proves that people somehow manage to emerge from the ashes of tragedy.
A year after a fire ripped through one of the buildings that makes up the Setauket Commons at 60 Route 25A, Hayes Physical Therapy is still operating from a storefront down the road in the Schoolhouse Square Shopping Center.
Anne McLaughlin, president of Hayes Physical Therapy, said she didn’t expect the move to be as seamless as it was, and the business, which celebrated its 15th anniversary this year, has grown in its new location.
“It’s a good spot,” McLaughlin said. “We have fantastic neighbors. It seems like we have even better visibility here. It’s actually working out better than we could have hoped.”
McLaughlin, who bought the business in 2009, said the office operated out of the Setauket Commons building since 2004. She, along with other tenants, including Brookhaven Cat Hospital, were forced to close down after the Oct. 7, 2018, fire. The incident, which took more than two hours to control, according to Setauket Fire Department, left smoke and water damage in its wake.
After the fire, the business owner, who lives in Bay Shore, said she made house calls when possible and referred some patients to colleagues in the surrounding area. When the physical therapy office was able to reopen in its new location in February, all the employees returned, and the business currently has three therapists and five support associates, and recently, they have taken on an intern.
McLaughlin and her employees reached out to former patients as best as they could through phone calls and ads, while other people have found them while patronizing other stores in the shopping center. She said she is grateful that many of her patients have returned for treatment.
A recent fire at Mario’s, located in the same shopping center, she said affected her.
“That sends a nasty chill coming in and seeing fire trucks in the parking lot again,” she said. “We’re wishing them the best. That’s been a horrible drain on the whole community.”
After the ordeal, McLaughlin said she would advise anyone who goes through a similar tragedy to consult those who are experts in dealing with such things, crediting her team of lawyers and insurance professionals with giving her valuable advice.
“I was able to rely on advice from other professionals to really guide me through completely unnavigable waters,” she said. “I didn’t know one thing about how to pick up the pieces after something so horrific. Thankfully there are a lot of people who know more about that than I do. I trusted them and I was very fortunate.”
McLaughlin said she also credits members of the surrounding community who bolstered her spirits by keeping in touch and asking her when she was going to reopen.
“It’s a matter of fortitude,” she said. “It’s really just not giving up and not getting disgusted. It can be very frustrating. You reach the outer depths of whatever frustration you thought you could handle, and you buckle up and keep going.”