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Collectors Lair reopens in new Fort Avenue spot after fire

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Posted: Friday, March 29, 2013 1:00 am | Updated: 9:31 am, Fri Mar 29, 2013.

Surrounded by figurines of Yoda and The Avengers, James Lair checked prices online this week as he worked to fill the shelves of his new shop on Fort Avenue in Lynchburg

His shop, Collectors Lair, had burned to the ground just two months ago.

“There was very little we could recover,” Lair said.

Lair estimated he lost about $300,000 of uninsured merchandise in the Jan. 26 fire, including millions of baseball cards and thousands of video games.

Lair and his wife, Paula, were in the midst of remodeling their nearly 100-year-old home and used the shop to store furniture and other belongings. The fire destroyed a lot of their personal belongings as well.

The blaze, which burned for days, remains under investigation, Lynchburg Fire Marshal Thomas Mack said.

About a month after the fire, Lair reopened his shop less than a mile away, next door to Chestnut Hill Hardware and near Fort Avenue’s intersection with Wards Road. He has operated a hobby shop for more than 20 years and knew he had to reopen.

“That was almost immediate,” Lair said. “We were successful at what we were doing.”

For 10 years, Lair sold collectibles from his former location on Fort Avenue, previously the Continental Hobby Shop. Lair opened his store in the 1980s after his childhood hangout, The Treasure Chest, closed. The faded sign from Lair’s first store is displayed in the front window of his new location.

“We’re sort of an attraction,” he said. “We have people that come to visit us from different states.”

In just two months, Lair’s store is starting to fill up.

Customers wander in, searching for baseball cards or a 1960s “Bat Boat,” Batman’s iconic watercraft.

“We’re not anywhere near where we were,” he said. “We’re starting small and working our way up.”

However, different organizations are lending a hand.

Liberty Christian Academy, where three of Lair’s children attend, is helping gather merchandise for the new store.

“They had a significant trauma in their lives,” LCA Elementary School Principal Phil Forcey said.

A week ago, a letter went out to parents asking them to look around for comic books, toys or video games to donate to the Lairs.

“A lot of people have this stuff lying around,” Forcey said. “We’re trying to help them restock.”

Leesville Elementary School, which another of the Lair children attends, and Tree of Life Ministries also have held collections for the store.

“It will help us in a great way,” Lair said. “You’d be surprised what we can use.”

Even as business grows at the new location, Lair hopes to rebuild at the site of his former store, across from the Fort Hill Village Shopping Center.

“There are about 400 steps between now and then,” he said.

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