The deadly explosion at a fertilizer plant in the small town of West, Texas, last week damaged a nearby General Motors store and spurred local dealers to organize efforts to help heal their ravaged community.
Greg May Chevrolet, about 1 mile west of the plant site, sustained more than $50,000 in damages that included blown-out windows, collapsed ceilings, buckled-in doors and other structural damage, says owner Greg May.
May says he completed his GM facility modifications April 1.
"We noticed the lights underneath the awning that we built have moved out of the holes they were in. We see ceiling tiles buckled. We found some glass in the interior of the building that had blasted out," May says. "The force from the blast caused the building to shake and shift."
If inspectors tell May his building is structurally unsafe to continue operations, he will set up a temporary facility, he says.
Officials had confirmed more than a dozen deaths by late last week, but the toll was expected to rise as the investigation progressed. More than 200 people were injured, according to news reports.
No one at May's store or nearby Sykora Family Ford was hurt, but in the small town of about 2,800 people, everyone knows someone who was killed or injured, dealers say.
"It's a very, very tight-knit town of German-Czech heritage steeped in tradition and family," says Annette Sykora, whose in-laws own Sykora Family Ford.
"This is the kind of town where there's a fundraiser every weekend and everyone attends and gives generously."
Annette Sykora, 2008 chairman of the National Automobile Dealers Association, is dealer principal of Smith South Plains in Levelland, Texas, about a five-hour drive from West.
Both Sykora Family Ford and Greg May Chevrolet have become donation drop-off points for food, clothing and money. May said about a dozen dealerships from other areas have shipped donations to his store.
Neither dealership is focused on sales now, but both are servicing damaged vehicles.
"Obviously, right now we're not doing any business. Nobody in the area is thinking about buying cars," May says. "The only work we're doing right now is the work to help the effort in town for the search and recovery."