Shop set to rebuild after arson, thefts
By Blake Belden, staff writer
Aug 19, 2014, 10:39
BLAKE BELDEN/HOPEWELL NEWS/NEWS-PATRIOT The charred ruins of Wamsley’s Tire & Auto Center is shown along the Boulevard last week in Colonial Heights.
COLONIAL HEIGHTS — Seven weeks later, investigators are still looking for answers related to the fire that left an independently owned automotive shop along the Boulevard a burned up skeleton of a building standing in a mountain of rubble.
A crumbled Toyota lies underneath an ashy pile of busted cinderblocks, bent gutters, scorched metal, old tires and the remains of what used to be Wamsley’s Tire & Auto Center.
Sitting in the small room of a borrowed trailer that acts as a makeshift office, David Wamsley looked out across the parking lot and said that the fire critically impaired their ability to continue vehicle repair operations.
“Just like that, our business is cut in half,” David said, mentioning the fact that they can still sell cars on the lot.
Located at the corner of Boulevard and Boykins Avenue, Wamsley’s was broken into on June 26, at which point a car was stolen, and then set on fire. Since then, the business has continued to be kicked while it’s down.
Colonial Heights Fire and EMS Lt. Joe Boisseau, who is handling the investigation, confirmed that two more burglaries occurred since the initial fire, including the theft of a car and a set of new tools.
The tools were stored in one of the trailers, and the locks were cut from the outside, David said.
David also said that both stolen cars have since been found, unoccupied, and the only damage done was a broken window in one of the cars.
All of the separate crimes that occurred at Wamsley’s are believed to be related, Boisseau said.
Monetary rewards for information leading to an arrest are now at a total $15,500, with $5,000 contributed by the Virginia Association of Arson Investigators, $1,000 from Crime Solvers, $2,000 from both David and his father, Neil, and the remaining $7,500 from Wamsley’s insurance provider.
BLAKE BELDEN/HOPEWELL NEWS/NEWS-PATRIOT
When asked if these crimes might have been committed on a personal level, David said that from time to time they will deal with some strange customers, but there has never been a time that has made them suspect a person would “come back to burn the place down.”
David’s father, Neil, opened the auto shop in 1983, and since it opened over 30 years ago, there have been a couple of break-ins, but nothing close to the detrimental incidents that began with the arson just recently, David said.
But despite the constant reminder of the torched building and destroyed property, David said that “we are definitely going to rebuild,” with optimistic hopes of seeing these reconstructive efforts in the next week or so.
“Luckily, we’ll be able to get through [this] and survive, although just barely,” David said, knowing that many other businesses in the same situation would not be so fortunate as to be able to continue their operations.
Much of Wamsley’s ability to continue has been aided by a wealth of community support, including the fact that they were lent the trailer from which they currently conduct the majority of their operations.
While they are waiting to rebuild, David said they are mainly just trying to sell the cars they have on the lot.
Anyone with information regarding the crimes should contact Crime Solvers at 804-748-0660.