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Chester County Press

OMI asks community to ‘rally around our businesses’

09/27/2023 03:10PM ● By Betsy Brewer Brantner

The rebuilding of Oxford’s BID (Business Infrastructure District) will be a challenge after a devastating fire hit businesses in the downtown, but the BID is blessed that there are many community members who are invested in them.

The following businesses and nonprofits are deeply affected by the devastating fire: Dubarry of Ireland, Toot Sweets, Las Cazuelas, Maroon Hornet, Oxford Mainstreet Inc. (OMI), Outback Trading, Teen's Place, and Vicki Vinton Art Studio.

OMI hasn’t skipped a beat even though it was one of those displaced businesses, and has quickly relocated to the second floor of the Oxford Area Historic Association’s new location in the former Union School building at 119 S. Fifth Street.

“We are very comfortable in our new location and we thank OAHA for extending a welcome,” new OMI executive director Julia Ehrhardt explained.

As the new director, Ehrhardt had just days on the job when the fire struck. The OMI office is demolished, but their spirit is not.

 As of Thursday, Sept. 21, Ehrhardt, working with other displaced businesses, was  coordinating the efforts of getting BID members assistance with Small Business Association (SBA).Their meeting ran from noon to 8 p.m. at the Lighthouse Youth Center at 245 Commerce Street. They are also helping them with the insurance deductible. 

Ehrhardt said, “This is part of the Chester County MARC (multi-agency resource center) which acts as a “one stop shop” that provides assistance to all impacted residents/businesses by bringing together staff from many agencies who can help with the services needed to address the losses caused by the Oxford Fire. SBA was present to provide business specific assistance.”

And so it begins, learning to navigate the road ahead, after a fire.

OMI, will also continue to push out more details about First Friday, a t-shirt fundraise and the bingo fundraiser. They are hoping that the Bingo event will be sold out by the time this story goes to press.

Ehrhardt learned first-hand how giving and supporting the Oxford community is during the immediate aftermath of the fire.

If there is a silver lining, and in Oxford there always is, it is the major publicity that Oxford received due to the fire. The tri-state area was privy to numerous interviews with what makes Oxford a great place to live, work and play. From interviews with police officers who were instrumental in saving lives as they ushered residents out of a burning building, to the Union Fire Company that worked long hours to put out a fire that could have been much worse. 

Numerous local agencies, including SILO, the Lighthouse, Neighborhood Services Center, LCH, the Oxford Ministerium, businesses and more are working to assist those during their time of need.

And, of course, Chester County Emergency Management Services, and the Red Cross played an integral part in navigating unchartered waters in the first hours and days after the fire.

Christine Grove, the director of the Oxford Area Chamber of Commerce, said, “Half of my heart is in pieces while the other half is full of gratitude with how much our community loves and supports Oxford.”

And it wasn’t just this local community. Grove explained that the football team from Solanco High School in Quarryville donated many much-needed items to the displaced residents. Her office was filled with donations of every kind, and Grove will continue to spend countless hours connecting donations to those in need. 

“So many of our neighbors in the area have reached out asking how to help assist the families and businesses that lost everything in the fires,” Grove said.

As for the new director of OMI,  Ehrhardt said she was looking for a purpose in her life when she took on this new role.

“Now, I have found my purpose,” she said. “This is the beginning of a great adventure.”

She acknowledged that Oxford has suffered a great loss as a result of the fire.

“There is a loss of history and a loss of livelihood. Many people have lost their employment. All of our lives have changed,” she said.

She switched gears and spoke of the resiliency of the town.

“Oxford is highly resilient,” she said. “The diverse community came together and helped everyone after the fire. Strangers on the street offered help. The fire department and police department were amazing. The borough government is helping greatly. Everyone contributed any way they could and still are. That is the strength of this community. Oxfordians are people of action. Now we get up and get going. I have very little doubt that this town will reflect upon this and be stronger.”

The hard work begins. The demo site must be secured to keep everyone safe. Now is the time to rally around the businesses.

Many businesses will be relocated in the borough, so keep your eyes open when passing by. The fallen businesses will stay in the borough as close to the original landscape as possible.

Erhardt said, “I knew Oxford would band together, but this is over the top. We didn’t have to ask, they showed up.”

Many people continue to help, but Neighborhood Services Center is now centralizing the effort. Check out the message on their website at

“As community partners gathered to aid, including county resources, it was determined that Oxford Neighborhood Services Center was best equipped with a trained staff to lead the crisis efforts.

“We are crisis first responders helping individuals and families get back on their feet, stabilize their affairs, and have the tools and resources to live with self-determination and confidence. When that happens, Oxford is a stronger and more unified community, like an extended family.

When you’re in trouble, call NSC, for practical help: food, supplies, resources, connections, referrals, translations, life skills, direction, and guidance. We are here to help.”

It is time to rally around the businesses.

If you are interested in helping you can also check out the following links:

Fire Relief Resources: linktree/oxfordpastrong - this is a live link that is updated when new links/resources are available. 

OMI Bingo Fundraiser:

Howett's T-Shirt Fundraiser: T-shirts are available in the store and at Cameron's.