AUBURN | Two Genesee Street business owners had a rude awakening when they got to work Wednesday morning only to have the city condemn the buildings that house their workplaces.
According to Auburn code enforcement officer Brian Hicks, the complex of three buildings at 41 to 53 Genesee St. was closed due to violations of the fire and safety codes. He did not indicate when the building would re-open.
Affixed across the doors of the Matchbox tattoo shop and The Flower Shop were orange signs stating the businesses were "unfit for occupancy" and referred interested parties to call the code enforcement department at 255-4111.
Bryan Simmons, manager of the tattoo shop, said building owner and landlord James Kilmer knew of the building's problematic plumbing and sprinkler system malfunctions since the winter.
In January and February, Simmons said, a slew of events including a broken furnace, frozen pipes, burst sprinkler system and a water main break contributed to significant water damage throughout the buildings.
At that time, Simmons said, the code enforcement officer was "pretty understanding" about the building's condition, but had changed his opinion recently.
"I saw (Hicks) last week and he said it's even more dire than they'd anticipated," Simmons said.
Simmons said he spoke with Kilmer Monday and was told that conditions in the building "weren't that bad."
Kilmer said he's spent the last several days doing his "due diligence" regarding the broken sprinkler system. He ran water through the pipes to determine if leaks were present and communicated with the Auburn Fire Department accordingly.
"I knew I needed to have the sprinkler system signed off on," Kilmer said. "What the real deal is is that I've talked to five different people this morning, fire, codes, they know full well I'm dealing with a company that's supposed to be working on the sprinkler system."
Simmons and his employees are considering moving the tattoo business to a temporary location until the issue is resolved.
"We knew this was kind of coming to a head at some point," he said. "This puts us kind of a week behind."
Customers may contact the tattoo shop online at TheMatchboxtattoo@gmail.com.
Michele Ferraraccio said that she specifically chose the Genesee Street location for her flower shop four years ago to honor her family's legacy of doing business downtown. Her grandparents were proprietors of Cervo's News just up the street.
"I love downtown," she said. "I'm so disappointed the owner has not done anything to help the situation."
Ferraraccio's bright, airy shop was full of fallen flower petals and in slight disarray as she and Carole Tripiciano, her aunt and employee, moved about Wednesday. The large cooler, to be shut off by 3 p.m., was emptied of several buckets of flowers.
They sat underneath a partially exposed ceiling, evidence of water damage sustained earlier in the year.
When water began spilling from the dropped ceiling tiles this winter it ruined valuable inventory. "I lost $700 worth of flowers," she said.
An investment of $15,000 to update the retail space was a good faith move on her part, she said.
Kilmer described himself as aggravated by attempts he's made over the years to promote Auburn's small businesses. He said he's owned 60 properties in the city.
"(The city) knows full well there are six small businesses in there," Kilmer said of the affected property. "It's getting harder by the minute to own a piece of property in Auburn."
Ferraraccio was slightly shaken by the abrupt news of having to close her shop, but remained confident she could fill orders.
"Tell my bride for next week, I've got her covered," she said.
Order inquiries can be made by contacting 283-7440.