Chesy business bouncing back after fire

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 14, 2005

CHESAPEAKE - ConnectLink, an Internet service provider, caught fire around 4 a.m. on Tuesday. As firefighters poured water on the building, owner Phil Henson was on the phone working to get his clients back online.

&#8221I knew we were going to be OK when I heard him on the phone,“ o-owner Amy Henson said.

In less than 24 hours, Phil had the Internet service back up and running. They are currently in the process of rebuilding and reconnecting the e-mail. Amy Henson said the main priority was to get the Internet back up so clients could again begin surfing the Web.

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The business started in 1998 as a dial-up Internet provider, to service the rural area.

Since that time Henson has been building a business to serve the local community. ConnectLink mainly serves businesses and large corporations from an area including Lincoln, Jackson, Gallipolis, Huntington, W.Va., and Ashland, Ky. The clients include hospitals, schools, airports and many small businesses.

Those clients and others jumped in and pulled together to help the Henson's get ConnectLink back online - by offering their support, alternative ideas and even use of some of their equipment.

&#8221It was an unbelievable experience,“ Amy Henson said. &#8221The network and support of all the businesses, everyone pulled together.“

Henson said she was truly inspired by her husband, their staff and the outside community of networking people.

Many times she said how much they appreciated the support of the government agencies, private and public organizations and the networking businesses. She attributes it to the people of this area.

&#8221It's just a case of serendipity,“ Henson said.

Patrolman Richard Slack with the Chesapeake Police Department said he was on patrol on Second Avenue at the time of the fire and he began to smell smoke.

He noticed that the windows of the building which housed ConnectLink were black and hot to the touch - he immediately contacted the fire department.

Slack said the building was so air-tight the fire did not spread. One room in the building suffered severe damage, the rest of the building suffered smoke and water damage.

&#8221The biggest part of the fire was contained to one room,“ he said.

Amy Henson said that the State Fire Marshal reported the fire started in or around a server unit located in the server room - the room where they housed all their equipment. The fire devastated all the equipment in the facility.

Along with all their equipment, Amy Henson said she had a lot of boxes of donations for the victims of Hurricane Katrina ready to go in the back - boxes waiting to be picked up and delivered. These boxes were all lost to the fire, Henson said.

Now the family plans to go forward. Amy Henson said they are looking at a temporary structure to house equipment, and then as fast as they can they will remodel the structure.

Although she said the fire was devastating, the experience has been absolutely positive because of all the people who stepped in to lend a hand.

&#8221I feel blessed,“ she said.