A WHITCHURCH business owner who had part of his building burned down at the start of the month has thanked the community for its support.

John Ruffell, who owns John Ruffell Fitness Studio, in Church Street, was affected by a fire which took place in the road at the start of July when a van caught fire near to the petrol station.

The business had only opened its doors to the public in May this year, meaning that it had only been open for a few months before the fire damage.

Speaking to The Gazette, Mr Ruffell said: “I got a phone call saying that the building was on fire and I whizzed round, and watched the building as it was on fire and the firefighters putting it out. It was a bit of nightmare, really, being in our first few months and this happening.”

Around half of the building was damaged. The building housed three businesses, including Mr Ruffell’s fitness studio. Some of the fitness equipment was lost to the fire as well as some of the furnishings inside the place. However, it has not stopped classes from running.

Mr Ruffell added: “We wanted people to continue to commit to their exercise journey.

"I thought that it would put people off from coming, but if anything, the opposite is true, with people coming in to support us. Even though we can’t use all the space that we used to, we still get people coming in to do their exercise. They are all aware of what’s going on and they still come.”

Shortly after the incident, one of John’s clients and friends Peter McLeod set up a JustGiving page to help them get back on their feet and pay for some of the costs. The initial target was beaten within a day, and the raised target of £1,000 has also been beaten.

After beating the £500 target in 24 hours, the target was doubled to £1,000 which was smashed within a day. It has now been raised to £1,500.

Mr Ruffell added: “I’m very grateful to Peter and the people who donated, I really can’t thank them enough. It’s not just the money, but the messages and offers of help that people have been sending us, we really appreciate it.

"We’re going to use the money raised to replace some of the equipment and generally help to refit the place. The landlord has been very helpful as well.”

To donate, go to justgiving.com/crowdfunding/jrf-fund.