Community steps up to help flooded out Brandywine Ace

By Mike McGann, Editor, the Times @mikemcgannpa

Local residents help to clear debris in the parking of Brandywine Ace Pet & Farm in Pocopson.

POCOPSON — From a distance, with cars parked everywhere and people everywhere despite looming rain clouds, it looked a lot like a normal Sunday afternoon at Brandywine Ace Pet & Farm.

It was anything but.

Flood water raged through the store late Wednesday night into Thursday, part of the remnants of Hurricane Ida, putting almost two and half feet of water in the store and even more in the nearby warehouse. Almost immediately members of the local community reached out offering to help to a business that has been a cornerstone of the area for as long as any can remember.

Customers brought food for the staff, waded in and helped start the clean up process for the store. They started coming Friday and were still in strong evidence on Sunday afternoon — spending time on a holiday weekend to help their neighbors and friends. 

Larry Drennan, one of the store owners and the latest caretaker of a legacy on the site that dates back to at least 1858, said he and his family are overwhelmed by the outreach and help of the community — and repeatedly expressed thanks for all who had offered help to get the store up and running again. He also offered thanks to some of his fellow Ace retailers in the area who stepped up to offer help.

Like so many places in Chester County last week, water rose and flooded places never seen before — Ida dumped multiple inches of rain on the area, set off tornadoes in the Oxford area and left a trail of devastation and suffering around the county.

Damaged goods are stacked outside the entrance to Brandywine Ace, Pet & Farm in the aftermath of devastating floods.

In this case, the Brandywine did something it hasn’t done in at least more than a century: it rose beyond the railroad tracks, heavily damaged businesses on both sides of the creek near Rt. 926. It’s the kind of flooding that wasn’t supposed to be likely — just a few years back when the Rt. 926 bridge was replaced such a flood was considered so unlikely it was not accounted for in the redesign of the bridge.

But it happened — a torrent of water, not just in this spot near the Brandywine, but in so many areas locally.

Just down Creek Road, there was equal amount of disaster for the stores, museums and restaurants in Chadds Ford.

To the north, water wreaked havoc in a corridor along Lincoln Highway from Coatesville to Downingtown. Businesses and homes damaged, in some cases, a life’s work ruined, in others, a home lost.

In all those locations — and so many more — what we’ve also seen is a community step up and offer help to their neighbors. Whether it was hauling out ruined couches in Caln or collecting items for those who lost most if not everything, the people of Chester County stepped up to help those in need.

And so it is for Brandywine Ace Pet & Farm.   

At least 28 inches of water filled the interior of the store, late Wednesday into Thursday.

On paper, it is a hardware store and a pet/livestock supply store. But the store is, and has been, so much more to this corner of Chester County. Unlike the big box stores, it is the kind of place where the staff knows you — and you know them — and there’s always a friendly hello and a wave.

If you’re a local — like this reporter — you find yourself in the store once or twice a week to pick up that one thing you need to finish a project, or some other item you suddenly realized you needed. Stopping in at The Ace is always a bit like going home.

In many ways, it’s the kind of place that belongs to the community as much as its owners. And when it needed the community, folks were there.

On Sunday, Pocopson Road was lined with cars, as folks came to help, people carrying out wrecked merchandise or flood-damaged shelving. Before the real work of tearing out flood damaged flooring and drywall can begin, the work of removing the debris had to get done.

It is a process that Drennan said he hoped could be completed within a couple of weeks.

Surveying his store, Drennan expressed the grit we’ve seen from so many this week in Chester County. 

“We will be back,” he said.

Words he could have spoken for an entire county.

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