A FAMILY business in Minehead is counting the cost after fire wrote off the contents of a shop.

Novel T’s, which has been based at its premises in The Avenue for six years, started out as a novelty T-shirt shop but has expanded into a specialist garment printers.

Owner Tim Ahern arrived as normal on Friday morning and did not notice anything untoward until he was engulfed in black smoke when he opened the door.

The fire, thought to be caused accidentally, had burnt itself out overnight, leaving just smouldering debris in the morning.

Fire crews from Minehead and Williton were called to the shop shortly after 8.30am and used breathing apparatus, a thermal imaging camera and a ventilation fan in the smoke-logged property.

Mr Ahern, who was treated for smoke inhalation, said: “Everything’s a complete write-off in the shop – stock, machinery, computers. Hopefully, the long-term damage will be minimal but it is just the time and the heartache now.

“I will have to re-stock but the biggest worry is my hard drive which contains all my designs – there is 11 years’ of work on that. It makes me sick to the stomach.

“You can’t believe the mess it has made. The doors and windows were black. My landlady’s insurance company says it’s going to be six weeks until the premises is back in shape.

“I have to say how good the firefighters were – they got here very quickly and were very professional when they arrived. They were brilliant, as were the paramedics and our friends and family since the fire.”

Mr Ahern employs one full-time member of staff and two others at weekends and while business is always steady, summer is when the shop is busiest.

He added: “We make work gear for local companies but we do a lot of trade in the summer with holidaymakers – people come back year on year.

“High Street shops aren’t doing the best. It has been very difficult these past few years but having the website and eBay helps because people do a lot of shopping online now.

“Unfortunately, our eBay site, which is linked to our Facebook page, has had to be closed for the moment because of the fire.

“I would like to say sorry to my customers for the inconvenience. We will be back up and running as soon as possible.”