TODAY marks the first anniversary of one of the biggest and most spectacular fires in Ballarat’s central business district.
It is 12 months since fire gutted the Grenville Street North building housing the much-loved Plaster Fun House and the second-storey business Absolute Yoga.
While devastating at the time, Plaster Fun House owner Brad Billings now sees the February 6 blaze as a “blessing in disguise”.
“That expression has been used by many customers. So yes, I do think it is a blessing in disguise,” Mr Billings said.
He said the memory of arriving at the fire scene remained vivid.
“A friend of mine called me to say there was fire coming from your street,” he said.
“There was nothing I could do.”
Scraping anything he could that was left of his business from the ashes,
Mr Billings said the months following the tragedy were trying times.
“At the time, I just wanted to throw it all in and retire,” he said. “The first few months were really tough. We were operating out of a shed in Delacombe and were making very little income.
“But I thought, ‘I’ve still got more years in me’.
“It was the customer support and the memory of kids with tears rolling down their face at the fence on Grenville Street.”
The Plaster Fun House has settled into trendy new premises on Humffray Street South and now has three party rooms.
“We are extremely happy with it. It’s got a great open front and great atmosphere,” Mr Billings said.
“The old customers have come back (and) we have new customers.”
The Plaster Fun House’s new breath of life has set up the family entertainment business for generations to come, Mr Billings said.
“I mean, it’s been an institution in Ballarat since the 1980s. But after all these years I’ve still got passion for the business.”