(Photo courtesy of Mittul Patel)
Developer Austin Inman dropped out of Drexel University two and a half years into his career to take a leap of faith and join a web development firm in Old City.
On Sunday, that web dev shop — The 215 Guys — was upended by the kind of crisis many companies don’t come back from: their offices at 239 Chestnut St. were ravaged by a four-alarm fire on Sunday.
“I woke up like any Sunday morning,” Inman, 23, said. “I checked the usual phone apps, went to my computer and checked emails. Then I saw I had an email from Marc [Levy, the company’s cofounder] The subject line read: ‘Shitty news’ and it had a big pic of the office on fire with a couple of fire hoses pointed at it. Kinda took my breath away for a couple of minutes.”
It took nine hours for the Philadelphia Fire Department to get the fire under control. When all was said and done, five buildings were affected by the fire on the Old City block, including a restaurant, a hostel and the Best Western Plus Independence Park Hotel.
The building that housed the dev shop’s offices (and former home of videogame makerspace Philly Game Forge) has been declared imminently dangerous by the Department of Licenses and Inspections and will eventually need to be demolished. Thus, The 215 Guys lost everything.
“I was like a second home to us,” said Inman, who started as an intern at the company and became a full-time employee in March of 2016. It’s why Inman took it upon himself to start a $10,000 crowdfunding campaign on GoFundMe to help offset the cost of replacing furniture, equipment and find new office space.
“This company is so much more than a job, it has honestly changed my life,” Inman said in the GoFundMe campaign. “I took a leap of faith and left college to join The 215 Guys, and it was the greatest decision I ever made. Never have I felt so strongly that a group of people have my back no matter what.”
The campaign joins three others looking to help those affected overcome the aftermath of the blaze. Two campaigns for resident Al Gury have together raised over $70,000. Another, for resident Phil Weber, has raised over $5,000 of its 20,000 goal.
“They’re genuinely amazing guys who care about other people,” Inman said. “I’m a big believer in what goes around comes around.”
Cofounder John Rodgers said clients and friends have been reaching out with offers of office space and support after hearing of the fire, which he estimates generated between $25,000 and $50,000 in losses. The company had disaster coverage and has reached out to its provider, State Farm. But as Rodgers notes, it will likely take some time before they receive the funds that will allow them to get back on their feet.
“We’ve had such an amazing outpouring of love from the community,” Rodgers said.
There’s also an opportunity through which The 215 Guys, as well as other companies affected by the fire, might qualify for aid from the United States Small Business Administration (SBA). Lauren Cox, spokesperson for the Department of Commerce, told Technical.ly that city officials were in the early stages of surveying impacted businesses to determine their eligibility for support through the SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDLs).
In the meantime, the company continues to work out of local coffee shops and home offices.
“There’s no talk of any kind of shutdown,” Inman said. “Since all our stuff’s online, we went right back into it yesterday.”
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