Written by: Leonard Parker | Houston Business News | 20th July
More than a year after The Wilde Collection was torched by an arsonist determined to destroy the oddities shop, co-owner Lawyer B. Douglas II still fears for his life.
Douglas and co-owner Tyler Zottarelle are rebuilding the collection, but will never forget the fiery attack that took everything from them.
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It was a sunny Friday afternoon in November 2019. Workers were helping about a dozen customers inside the shop when Jonathan Jindra walked in carrying a gas can.
Jindra poured the gasoline and set it on fire, sparking a blaze that spread through the shop. The fire ultimately destroyed priceless one-of-a-kind artifacts from around the world, killed several animals and made the building uninhabitable.
The fire pushed smoke into a blue sky Nov. 1, 2019.Courtesy Joseph Acosta
Everyone managed to escape the blaze unscathed. Miraculously, among the hustle of fleeing the inferno, bystanders tackled Jindra and held him until police arrived.
Jindra, now 36, pleaded guilty in exchange for a 15-year prison sentence in June. He'll be up for parole in a matter of years, and that doesn't sit well with Douglas.
Jindra made several posts threatening to kill Douglas and his family prior to the arson attack, according to Gabrielle Banks in the Houston Chronicle.
Witnesses said Jindra screamed "God told me to do it" shortly after setting the fire.
"I fear that when he does get out, he'll try and finish what he started," Douglas told Chron. "...There's not a day that I don't picture myself being asleep and then somebody sets my house on fire, or me coming home to ashes. It's a constant thing now, and it's never going to go away. It's something he's burned into my soul."
Lawyer B. Douglas II vows the return of the Wilde Collection.The Wilde Collection
The days and weeks after the fire were a blur of public appearances for Douglas, who found himself in front of cameras, speaking at benefits and talking with the community that came out to support for the oddities shop after the blaze.
But when life slowed to a snail's pace during the pandemic, Douglas said he and his loved ones felt the trauma of the incident truly take its toll.
"Being away from people, being away from working inside the ashes of the building, we started seeing how heavy it was personally to us," he said.
Nearly two years have passed since the blaze, and Douglas and Zottarelle are working hard on securing new pieces from unique collections around the world to display in the second iteration of their shop. The old structure will have to be demolished, Douglas said, and a new cathedral to the odd and occult will be built in its place.
Douglas promises an experience like no other for the new collection, which will feature some of the artifacts salvaged from the fire (including a special attraction "under lock-and-key" of which he currently is not at liberty to reveal yet), new treasures and even a memorial to the old shop.
The Wilde Collection forwent selling items online so they can build an inventory large enough to show off in their new digs, whenever the time comes.
"As far as reopening, there's never an option not to," Douglas said. "Not only do we love this place so much, if we didn't reopen, it's as if the arson(ist) won. That's really not an option. We will rebuild and reopen."