For the past seven years, Susan Beausang has used her company, 4women.com, to provide comfort to women who’ve lost their hair due to chemotherapy, alopecia or other medical conditions, in the form of headscarves and other fashion accessories. But in the early morning Sunday, Oct. 14, Beausang’s years of work and service to the community went up in smoke.
While Beausang was attending church, she received a message from her husband, telling her that her Main Street office building was on fire. Someone had thrown an improvised incendiary weapon into the building, and a police officer had noticed the smoke on his way into work. When she arrived to the office, she discovered that although the fire was not directly in her office, her business had suffered extensive smoke damage. The fire was contained to First Step’s office, but Beausang’s office, along with other businesses in the building at 2075 Main St., suffered smoke damage.
The other businesses in the building are the law office of Eric Reisinger, law office of Steven P. Johnson, First Step of Sarasota Inc.’s court services office, Florida Police Benevolent Association Inc. and Martella Law Firm.
“My heart just sank,” said Beausang. “Everything was ruined. Seven years of hard work was just covered in soot. There was just an overwhelming sense of defeat.”
Having lost her own hair to alopecia, Beausang started her business with an understanding of what other women experience with medical hair loss and the emotional aspect that accompanies it. She decided to start a company that would provide a more fashionable alternative to the options available at the time.
“There weren’t a lot of options available to these women,” said Beausang. “It was a lot of turbans, or the ‘cancer look.’ I wanted to bridge the gap between the medical and fashion worlds.”
As Beausang continued to build her business, it became a sort of safe haven for women to visit and talk openly about their experiences.
“A lot of them feel like they have no one to talk to about their hair loss, specifically,” said Beausang. “A lot of people don’t understand the emotional aspect of losing hair. They don’t understand why something like that should bother them, when they’re facing something as serious as cancer.”
Beausang says the most troubling part of the fire is that not only has it put her employees and her out of work but, also, she’s no longer able to provide this type of service to women in need.
“I get the most outstanding pages of testimonials from women telling me how the scarves have helped them,” said Beausang. “People are writing me, telling me their stories and asking when they can get a scarf. I don’t even know how to answer. I don’t have the finances to just start over in a new location.”
Police have told Beausang that in these types of arson cases, where all physical evidence is destroyed, finding the perpetrator can be difficult. As she gathers information for her insurance company and cleans her office, she says she feels helpless, but she remains hopeful that someone will come forward to help bring the arsonist to justice.
“It’s hard to know what direction to even go in,” she said. “I’ve been cleaning the office, but I can’t even go inside without a mask. You can’t breathe in there. With one random act, everything is gone. It’s just baffling.”