Office Reopens Six Months After Destructive Fire

OCEAN CITY – Merrill Lynch Wealth Management has created a new name and now has a newly re-built office to go along with it.

The office has been completely re-vamped due to a fire that had occurred last May at the Purnell office building on Route 50. It had damaged five businesses and destroyed two offices, Merrill Lynch and Jennifer A. Lynch, PC.

Six months ago, Merrill Lynch Resident Director Christine Selzer, who also serves as a wealth management advisor, entered the burnt office to collect any items that were salvageable. Now, she is excited to announce the re-opening of the office.

“We look forward to serving our community,” Selzer said. “We are anxious to be up and running.”

The cause of the fire has yet to be determined. Selzer is still waiting for a completed fire report, but word is the fire originated from a cigarette being improperly disposed of a bucket behind the building.

According to Selzer, property owner Troy Purnell has covered the costs to replace the building. As of now, Merrill Lynch has not had to have anything come out of pocket.

“They leveled it. So, we had to completely re-build all of this,” Selzer said.

Selzer looks at the situation with a glass half full mentality because the re-build created an opportunity to make some changes. Previous to the fire, the back wall of the office held Selzer’s office and a lunchroom that also served as a conference room. During the construction, she was able to plan a new layout of the back wall, shortening Selzer’s office and adding a separate conference room and lunchroom.

Fortunately, all client files were held in fireproof filing cabinets. The files have been in storage until last week. All 300 boxes were delivered to the office, and as of the day of re-opening all files were placed back into those fireproof cabinets where they belong.

“You really had to start from ground zero,” Selzer said. “You had to put staples in your stapler and tape in your scotch tape holder…it was like starting brand new.”

According to Selzer the re-construction went very smoothly. The only problem Merrill Lynch has run into concerns furniture.

“Its all custom and it was ready,” Selzer said. “So this is all temporary furniture and the new furniture will be here in January.”

When asked if there has been any additional fire safety precautions made since the fire, Selzer replied that she has asked the same question.

“We are already smoke free in the building,” Selzer said. “I guess it’s up to the landlord to make the decisions of what needs to be done with the common area. So, it’s in his court.”

The atmosphere in the office was harmoniously upbeat on Monday, the first day back. “It felt like Christmas morning this morning,” Selzer said.

When the employees walked into the office that morning, they all had welcome back packages on their desks, which held new business cards and business card holders, note pads, and letterheads.

Selzer said overall she was happy to be back in her office, but said the fire did nothing to stop her and her staff from conducting business.

“We never lost sight of our business,” she said. “The fire happened on a Saturday, by Monday all of our phones were transferred, and by Tuesday every employee had a place to work with a client list on their desk. … We never really skipped a beat in doing business, but now clients can come through the front door again.”