Owners hope to save antiques business after barn razed in Conway tornado

  • The barn housing J&J Maggs Antiques was leveled by Saturday’s tornado in Conway, but spared their adjacent house. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • The barn housing J&J Maggs Antiques was leveled by Saturday’s tornado in Conway, but spared their adjacent house. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

Recorder Staff
Published: 2/27/2017 11:38:56 PM

CONWAY — Minutes before a category 1 tornado struck his large Conway barn, antique dealer John Maggs considered going inside it to retrieve an item for a client.

Instead, he decided to get something to drink from his Pumpkin Hollow home.

“Then we heard this proverbial steam engine coming through the yard; it sounded just like the movies,” Maggs said Monday.

The barn was struck with the tornado’s 80- to 110-mile-per-hour winds while the Maggs were in the house. No one was hurt.

Two days after the rare weather event, John and Jan Maggs were still picking through the debris. The barn was one of six structures in Pumpkin Hollow or Whately Road that were damaged. The Maggs’ colonial house just a few feet from the barn was unscathed.

“We’re still assessing the extent of damages,” John Maggs said of his business.

Moving forward, the business must “reinvent” itself, he said, noting they have a “huge online clientele.”

Much of their inventory of furniture and jewelry was damaged or destroyed, although some items survived.

As for the barn’s fate, Maggs said while it is insured, “it’d take a phenomenal amount of money to rebuild the barn we had, and even if we did, we’d lose its history.”

Close call

The Maggs had returned from Natick just minutes before the storm struck about 7 p.m. On the way home, John Maggs had received a call from a client inquiring about an antique item. He said he thought, “maybe we should go to the office,” inside the barn, intending to check for the item right away. Instead, he decided to get something to drink in the house first.

After, Maggs said, “We didn’t realize what had happened.” When he walked outside to survey for tree damage, Maggs noticed the barn was gone, leveled to the foundation in some places.

As Maggs spoke Monday, eight salvage workers toiled behind him on the barn, now debris, pulling boxes filled with antique items out of the wreckage. Many items were crushed beneath splintered boards and its collapsed roof, while others remained untouched, such as a stack of books still in perfect order on a desk. Maggs said there has been an outpouring of support from the community.

Chris Rose, a neighbor, paused from helping remove items Monday to describe a surreal scene when he walked on Whately Road after the storm.

“The further down you went, the further open your mouth went,” he said.

You can reach Andy Castillo

at: acastillo@recorder.com


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