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Going Up in Flames: My Dream Shop Was Burning to the Ground!

This excerpt is from Business Boy to Business Man the memoir of Robert Verreault as told to Denis Ledoux. The memoir was published in 2013.

During the summer, I took a longer supper break and, after returning to the shop — where I had over a hundred and fifty employees — I might stay until the second shift went home at 11. The evening of July 18 was no different.

When I was young, I used to take care of emergencies at the shop myself, but no more. My summer camp’s telephone number was unlisted, and I had given it only to family and friends so I usually had a lot of quiet when I was there.

That night, however, the phone startled me awake at about 3:30. In the darkness, as I reached for the lamp, right away, I had a bad feeling. A middle-of-the-night call was not a compressor gone wrong. It was something much more serious. Could it be one of my parents was sick? Or, my wife’s? We had a lot of salesmen out on the road. Had one of them been in an accident? I stumbled through the camp to reach the phone in the large family room. When I answered, I heard a woman, announcing herself as a telephone operator, asking if I would take a phone call from a police officer. “He said you would want to be disturbed,” she added.

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I said immediately, “Yes.”

Had the police caught a thief in the shop? But, what would a thief want with conveyors? I knew, of course, that was not what a thief would have come for—a thief would have been looking for cash in the office.

But it was not a thief the officer was calling me about. What he said next shocked me.

“The Diamond Machine plant is on fire, Mr. Verreault.”

“What?” I shot back stunned.

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