Dry diff: Furniture store avoids a hit

When the remnants of tropical storm Gaston hit Richmond on Monday, August 30, flash floods swept areas of the city. Nowhere was harder hit, however, than Shockoe Bottom, the low-lying area on the city's eastern side where former Charlottesville furniture store La Difference has been located since 1994.

Word of the disaster spread quickly, with pictures of countless condemned signs aired on news channels across the nation.

"I had friends calling me from Florida who'd seen the condemned sign on my building," says La Diff owner Andy Thornton. Fortunately, he says, the business escaped relatively unscathed. That condemned sign was taken down on Wednesday, after a full inspection of electrical systems.

"We done good," he says. "Something was on our side."

Thornton says 15th Street, right behind the La Diff warehouse, filled with 15 feet of water "in a matter of minutes," damaging the store's loading dock and taking a delivery truck for a watery ride.

"It looks like a complete loss," says Thornton of the truck. The front and interior of the store, however, remained blessedly dry.

And there was another blessing: The flooding happened on a Monday, the one day the store is closed, so no employees were parked near that loading dock.

Others parked in the area were not so lucky.

"There were a good 300 to 400 cars swept away," says Thornton.

While his neighbors are dealing with condemned buildings and overwhelming clean-up, Thornton says La Diff reopened for business on Wednesday, September 1. And though he says scrubbing his parking lot is a big job, he says he knows how lucky he is– "compared to what it could have been."

La Diff, which fled Charlottesville 10 years ago, survived the Richmond deluge.