Matt Irby's printing shop has been at the corner of Pass Road and Tegarden Road for 23 years.
Tuesday night, the printer delivered campaign signs to a client. As he was on his way back to the office, he got a call. His print shop was on fire. And saving it was virtually impossible.
A day later, a friend dropped by Matt Irby's printing shop and asked what he could do to help. Irby smiled, said thanks and then asked, "When does the fun part start?" The Flash Printing owner tried to laugh. But it was hard. "A part of me just wants to sit down and cry my eyes out," he said. "But that's not going to fix anything."
In a flash Tuesday night, Irby's printing shop virtually disintegrated. "I'm still speechless," Irby said a day later. "I had no idea what a fire can do."
The fire burned right through the printed materials that Irby's team designed the past 23 years. Almost 17 hours after it ignited, Irby got to walk through the debris. "God what a mess," he said as he entered the back door. Irby lost his printing equipment. But on a walk with a Gulfport investigator, he didn't lose his sense of humor. "You all are coming back to clean this mess up, right," he asked rather tongue in cheek.
Irby also didn't lose his will to somehow complete any orders he could salvage. "I do have the rotary newsletter that I've never let them down," he said. "And I'm not going to let them down tomorrow. They'll have their newsletter. I haven't figured out how yet. But I'm going to make it happen."
Melody Turnley lives in an Irby rental house. It sits just a few feet from the charred printing shop. "I'm fine. I'll be all right," she said while sweeping and bagging charred leaves. "But mostly I'm concerned about Matt, trying to get back up on his feet, and everything back going."
Irby said don't worry about him. You see, he found a couple of computers hidden in the rubble. For now, they'll keep Flash Printing in business. "Thank goodness for backups," he said, referring to the hard drives in his computer.
Irby put the equipment in the back of his SUV, and took them home. He'll work from home until insurance agents tell him he can rebuild Flash Printing.