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Colorado Springs coffee shop reopens post-fire, but it's been a bitter process

June 4, 2014 Updated: June 5, 2014 at 8:05 am
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Kay and Don Heaberlin, co-owners of The Perk Downtown, continue to battle insurers for four months after an electrical fire shut down the coffee house in January. The business reopened May 29.

The owners of The Perk Downtown were burned by more than the fire that temporarily closed the coffee house in late January.

Don and Kay Heaberlin say they have battled for more than four months with their own and their landlord's insurers over payments for damaged and destroyed equipment, food that had to be thrown out and other costs related to the Jan. 24 fire.

Don Heaberlin estimates the damages and repairs at about $125,000, although not all of the bills have been submitted, nor have their claims with their the landlord's insurer been settled.

The Perk reopened May 29 with limited service because most of the equipment still must be repaired or replaced. A full-service opening is planned later this month, Don Heaberlin said Wednesday.

All but one of the 10 staff members have returned to work, he said.

The couple had hoped to reopen The Perk by March 1, and blamed the delayed opening on a contentious claims process with State Auto Insurance Cos., a Columbus, Ohio-based insurer that provided coverage to the business.

"On paper, it looked like we had good insurance, but the insurance companies make you jump through so many hoops for everything and the process is so adversarial," Kay Heaberlin said. "A lot of the equipment didn't work after it had been cleaned, and the insurance company kept telling us that the equipment could be restored. The insurance company treated us more like criminals than clients."

Some of the delays in reopening the shop stemmed from an investigation by State Auto, as well as the landlord's insurer and manufacturers of the equipment in the area where the fire started, Don Heaberlin said. Much of the equipment had to be shipped to a laboratory for testing and has yet to be returned to the shop or replaced, and the couple still has not received a copy of any report identifying what caused the fire, he said.

State Auto said in a statement Wednesday that it wasn't "aware of the Heaberlins' concerns and will gladly discuss them with them directly."

"Our goal is to settle claims promptly and fairly and to pay what is owed," the company said. "That applies to the Heaberlins, too."

The Perk might not have survived without help from friends, neighbors, other downtown businesses and loyal customers, who returned last week as if the coffee shop had never been closed, Don Heaberlin said. The Heaberlins were able to make ends meet, in part, because both have other jobs - Don Heaberlin is an engineer with computer storage manufacturer Quantum Corp., while Kay Heaberlin is a teacher at Rudy Elementary School.

The closure did provide one benefit to The Perk: It gave Don Heaberlin the chance to revamp The Perk's food and drink preparation process to make it more efficient, something he said he would not have had time to do before.

The fire also dealt a blow to Purple Mountain Coffee, the Heaberlins' nearby coffee roasting business, which generates more than a third of its sales from The Perk, Don Heaberlin said.

"We are glad to be open again. We just need our insurance coverage to come through so we can get all of our equipment back," Kay Heaberlin said. "Right now we couldn't handle big crowds of customers because we don't have all of the equipment we need - brewers, grinders, blenders, one of our microwave ovens - to handle the volume."

The Perk got a boost earlier this week with publicity generated by a visit from actor Kevin Bacon, who is in the Colorado Springs area filming a movie.

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Contact Wayne Heilman: 636-0234

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