Artwork and jobs lost in Isaac’s Way fire

Mike Sinclaire, pictured here with a painting he made for Isaac's Way before it burnt down (Cara Smith/AQ)

A fire in downtown Fredericton left 26 people homeless on Thanksgiving weekend, but one arts student and a St. Thomas University alumni connected to Isaac’s Way have also been hit hard. One lost his paintings, and another lost his job. They both fell in love with the restaurant’s sense of community.

Mike Sinclaire grew up loving to paint and create artwork. His passion followed him to the New Brunswick College of Craft and Design where he’s studying film.

This year would have marked the 18th annual art auction for charity at Isaac’s Way. Sinclaire had just donated two paintings to the auction, before the fire. Some of his paintings were hung prominently on the patio, and the walls inside were covered in other artists’ work.

He says he became involved with Isaac’s Way by accident.

“I was moving out of my apartment downtown and I was carrying two paintings to store there [NBCCD] until I moved everything and I walked in front of Isaac’s Way and one of the waitresses came out and said ‘Oh, are you here for the art auction?’” Sinclaire said.

“And I said ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

She gave him the contact information and he decided to donate. The art auctions have raised $46,030 since 2007 to send children to art, dance and music lessons.

Sinclaire is thankful he was late to finish three more paintings that were supposed to be given to the art auction, a few days before the fire. Many artists had just recently brought in their artwork for the auction.

One of the paintings he donated was a portrait and the other was two halves of a lady’s face. Ironically, he titled one of the paintings “Ashes.”

Sinclaire hung out at the restaurant frequently, usually once a week throughout the summer. He says he kept coming back because of the friendly staff, comfortable atmosphere and good food.

He found out about the fire while painting more art for the auction.

“I had just about gone to bed and my friend texted me from downtown saying ‘Isaac’s Way is burning, it’s on fire,’” Sinclaire said.

The owners plan to rebuild but questions about insurance and a new location have to be answered first.

“I hope to God they rebuild soon,” Sinclaire said.

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Nic Murrins graduated from St. Thomas University last year and worked at Isaac’s Way for a year before the fire happened. He was drawn to the job by the community atmosphere and the way the owners treat their employees.

Murrins has yet to find a new job and says it’s a rough time of year for server jobs because most restaurants and bars have already hired their fall staff.

“It’s kind of a low season until about the start to middle of November when Christmas parties and that kind of stuff start to come back in,” Murrins said.

But he says some of the kitchen staff found jobs quickly and the owners have been extremely supportive in helping them find jobs. The owners even arranged a trip to Maine for some of the staff to have time to get away.

He received a phone call from a friend on the night of the fire, telling him Isaac’s Way was on fire.

“So I came downtown to see for myself because at first I thought it would be something pretty minor. And when I got there the place was totally ensconced in flames, from top to bottom,” Murrins said.

He and other staff members watched for hours as the flames ripped through their previous place of employment.

This is also a huge loss for the community because of the work the restaurant did for charities and providing a meal every Saturday at the Wilmot church, next door. Other businesses such as Dolan’s Pub and the Delta Hotel have stepped in to help out.

Murrins says his co-workers were a big part of his life over the past year and that working at Isaac’s Way was great from day one. He planned to go back to school, but isn’t sure now.

“I plan on going back but it’s still kind of indefinite, especially now after this happening,” Murrins said.

“It’s kind of made me re-examine things a bit more because I had planned on working through this last year to get more money, but obviously now financial situations might be a bit different.”

The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

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