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Community rallies after Sifton Market fire

Fundraising efforts benefit lost business, family of woman who died

By , Columbian Assistant Metro Editor
6 Photos
Nancy Koon, right, consoles her sister, Best Friends Dog Grooming owner Sue Picchioni, during a fundraiser Sunday morning at Hooligan's Sports Bar & Grill in Vancouver. Best Friends lost its shop in the Sifton Market fire in January.
Nancy Koon, right, consoles her sister, Best Friends Dog Grooming owner Sue Picchioni, during a fundraiser Sunday morning at Hooligan's Sports Bar & Grill in Vancouver. Best Friends lost its shop in the Sifton Market fire in January. (Samuel Wilson for the Columbian) Photo Gallery

Even though Sue Picchioni watched her dog-grooming business burn to the ground on Jan. 15, she still couldn’t believe it was happening.

Gone was her business of 24 years, spare a few grooming tables, and gone were the 10 pets — seven birds and three cats — that lived inside. The fire at the Sifton Market retail center, 13412 N.E. Fourth Plain Blvd., also damaged a gas station convenience store, a barber shop and a pet supply store.

“It was just shocking. … My mind just couldn’t accept it,” Picchioni said Sunday. Once reality began to sink in, she was certain it was the end for Best Friends Dog Grooming.

Later, she would learn of more tragedy: That same day, firefighters recovered the body of a woman who worked at the convenience store two doors down. The deceased was Amy Marie Hooser, 47, of Vancouver, who Picchioni knew. Her death was a homicide, officials said, and the fire that ruined the retail center was intentionally set.

But communities tend to have a way of rallying when times get tough.

On Sunday, Picchioni’s friends, family, customers and some complete strangers turned out for two fundraisers to support Best Friends Dog Grooming. And a week later, a separate event will raise money for Hooser’s three daughters.

If You Go

• What: For the Love of Amy fundraiser.

When: 3 to 6 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 19.

Where: Brickhouse Bar & Grill, 109 W. 15th St., Vancouver.

Do-gooders walked into Hooligan’s Sports Bar & Grill in Vancouver on Sunday morning, shelling out $10 at the door for a breakfast of pancakes, sausage and eggs. The food was donated by the restaurant’s owner. Picchioni’s son Richard Hassler, who planned the event, also worked Sunday morning to raffle off prizes that had been donated by local businesses.

Beverly and Bob Tafolla of Camas showed up to the breakfast to support Picchioni, who has groomed their three rescued dachshunds, Lucy, Alfie and Charlie, for years. They mostly brought the dogs in for nail clippings.

“We saw what happened and were just so sad,” Beverly Tafolla said. “I think the community should try to help as much as they can.”

Picchioni received numerous hugs throughout the morning, including one from Beverly Tafolla. Smiling from inside the restaurant, Picchioni said, “I am so overwhelmed by the amount of support we have gotten.”

Picchioni bought Best Friends Dog Grooming after working there as a groomer for eight years. She moved her business into Sifton Market about 14 years ago, she said. She did not have insurance to cover the loss from the fire, her son said.

All 10 pets that lived inside of her business were rescue animals. The birds belonged to her, while the three cats, Zoey, Bella and Blaze, belonged to Picchioni’s granddaughter, who also worked there as a dog groomer.

The second fundraiser for Picchioni came Sunday evening in the form of a comedy show at Charlie’s Sports Bar & Grill in Vancouver, which is owned by the same person who owns Hooligan’s.

Donations to see comedians Susan “Cupcake” Jones and Benjie Write were taken at the door.

Through an online GoFundMe page, the family had raised about $7,000 before Sunday’s events, but needed about double that to restart the business. By Sunday night, they had about $14,700 in hand, Hassler said. All of the proceeds will go to Best Friends Dog Grooming, he said.

Picchioni said she has found a new location for the business at 10411 N.E. Fourth Plain Blvd., and she should be able to get the keys next month.

Find Out More

Find Best Friends Dog Grooming on Facebook at

“Looks like I’m going back into business,” she said.

Memorial fundraiser

On Feb. 19, another bar and grill, the Brickhouse at 109 W. 15th St. in Vancouver, will be the site of the fundraiser for Hooser’s family from 3 to 6 p.m. That event is being organized by Karen Byrne, a childhood friend of Hooser.

Officials have determined that Hooser died of smoke inhalation and homicidal blunt force head injuries.

On Jan. 20, officers arrested Mitchell Heng, a frequent customer at the convenience store, in connection with the fire and Hooser’s death. Heng, 21, pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder, first-degree arson and first-degree robbery earlier this month, and was being held on $2 million bail while awaiting trial.

The fundraiser for Hooser’s family will include Irish dancers, music and a memory board that will allow people to record their memories of Hooser for her daughters. Money raised at the event will go into a memorial account for the three girls.

Columbian Assistant Metro Editor