Business rebuilds, memorializes man killed in tornado

Businesses rebuild one year after tornado

CHESTERFIELD, Va. (WWBT) - The warehouse of a Chesterfield business that was demolished when an EF2 tornado touched down one year ago has rebuilt and is remembering the employee killed in that storm.

Kim and John Jones, owners of Old Dominion Floor Company, haven’t publicly talked about the death of their longtime employee and friend Ronnie Bishop.

"If it had just been the building it would have been much easier,” Kim said. “But it was just so much... we lost Ronnie and I can't get past that… it's a raw wound that's going to take a long time [to heal]."

Bishop was killed when the warehouse collapsed during the severe weather outbreak on Sept. 17, 2018.

“Boom it was there and you could see it coming and then we were down here and then it was done,” Kim recalled. “It was loud and it was just so fast. So fast, scary, scary fast.”

Tuesday an all too familiar sound rang through the new warehouse of Old Dominion Floor Company.

"We got our final approval this past Friday,” John said. “It was very nice to get it, but a difficult path to get to."

A path filled with plenty of cleanup.

"I still remember what it looked like when it was rubble,” Kim said. “It was rubble for a long time, but look how far we've come in a year. It's amazing."

The construction of a new warehouse was made possible by their next door neighbor, Stoker Construction.

“It’s bigger, it’s wider, it’s ten feet taller, it’s certainly built to code,” said Jeff Stoker.

Last week employees gathered at the new building ahead of the one year anniversary of Bishop’s death.

“It was pretty emotional,” Kim said. “A lot of tears, but we talked about him and that was good. He was gruff and ruff and a sweet teddy bear all at the same time.”

As the team moves into their new space, the Jones have made sure Bishop’s memory won’t be too far away - memorialized in a bench.

“The bumper is off Ronnie’s work truck that he drove every day and the tailgate too is off the truck,” Kim said.

The 15-year veteran with the company, is still present among his coworkers in a different way.

"I think it really is a good memorial to Ronnie,” Kim said. “We had a lot of emotion Friday.

“It’s been a very long emotional year getting this back, but I’m really happy and relieved for my friends and neighbors,” Stoker said.

Stoker’s business saw damage as well when the roof of Old Dominion Floor Company flew off.

While he’s made repairs to his building, there are still reminders in the area of what happened one year ago.

“You kind of forget about that stuff until you ride by and look at the damage that’s still hanging around,” said Tammy Harrup, a manager/server at Anna’s Italian Restaurant & Pizzeria.

St. John Furniture Company had extensive damage to the building. The building has yet to be repaired. Messages to the owners were not immediately returned.

While, the minimal damage has since been repaired at Harrup's restaurant, the memories remain.

"We all just kind of ran to the hallway and were just looking at each other wondering what's really happening right now,” Harrup said. “You walk outside and see it (the tornado) trucking right across and go oh!"

Surveillance video from the restaurant captured the sights of what happened right outside the business.

Surveillance video shows beginning of Chesterfield tornado damage

“Chairs on the patio got flown around, our pizza guy did a little dance out there and actually I think the front door got flown open as well,” Harrup said. “It’s pretty intense to see what was happening on the outside while we were hiding out in the back.”

Copyright 2019 WWBT. All rights reserved.