Lawyer B. Douglas II is devastated. So is his home, his business and much of his life’s work.
He’s determined to resurrect all of it, though, because he feels a responsibility to a community that won’t let him stay down.
Douglas and Tyler Zottarelle are owners of The Wilde Collection, a macabre gift shop and taxidermy business in the Heights that was ravaged by fire on the afternoon of Nov. 1. Jonathan Jindra has been charged with arson after allegedly walking into the store, emptying two cans of gasoline and starting a blaze that resulted in an estimated $120,000 in damages, according to the Houston Fire Department.
Douglas, who lived in the back of the building at 1446 Yale St. with his partner and 19-year-old son, said Tuesday he has not found anything salvaegable inside the store and that the structure may need to be demolished and rebuilt. Rekindling The Wilde Collection is the only option as far as Douglas is concerned, because of the outpouring of support the business has received from the Heights, the rest of Houston and beyond.
As of Wednesday morning, a GoFundMe page created by Douglas had raised more than $55,500.
“While my items have been destroyed and my store has been destroyed, I have not been destroyed,” Douglas said. “While my store and items have been burned, I have not been burned. Some day, I will give the city another experience like the one I had given previously.”
In the meantime, the owners and customers of the unique shop — which included live and stuffed animals and sold “oddities & curiosities” according to its sign — will continue to process the strange circumstances under which it was ruined. Douglas said Jindra, 34, used to date a store employee and had tried to befriend Douglas before apparently having a change of heart.
A little more than 12 hours before the fire, a post to a Twitter account with Jindra’s name said, “The Wilde Collection is dead. By my own hand and wrath I say this.” The account has since been suspended.
According to Harris County court documents, Jindra had been determined to have a mental illness or intellectual disability during the year preceding his arrest. On Monday his bond was set at $250,000, and according to a bond order, Jindra “said God told him to do it” and he “wants to be detained prior to trial so he can have a trial and prove he is a prophet.”
Douglas, who was vacationing in Salem, Massachusetts, when the building was set on fire, said at least 10 people were inside at the time. HFD District Chief Joseph Leggio said at the scene that only two employees were inside at the time and that neither sustained significant injuries.
Douglas said two dogs and several peacocks in the back of the store survived the fire. He said a three-legged cat named Nevermore, an exotic quail named Button and a snake named Nidhogg died.
The store, which opened in 2015, is black on the outside with a leafless white tree painted to the left of the front door. A vehicle resembling a small hearse, painted black with a metal skull affixed to the trunk, was parked in front of the building Nov. 1. Douglas told The Leader last month that the shop, and particularly a doll known as the “Restless Doll,” are haunted.
Houston Heights Association president Kevin Chenevert, co-owner of an outdoors store called Wandering Star Adventure Emporium that is opening across the street, said The Wilde Collection is a well-liked part of the neighborhood and especially popular on weekends.
“It’s a classic Heights establishment. It’s got a little bit of everything,” Chenevert said. “It’s super unfortunate, especially the way it all happened. It’s super tragic.”
Douglas said the fire is the “toughest thing we’ve had to encounter,” and not just because it ruined his store and items he said he and Zottarelle spent decades collecting. It also has displaced Douglas and his family.
But in light of the outpouring of support the business has received from its faithful customers, Douglas vowed to bring it back in some form at some point.
“We will rise from this,” he said. “We have to.”