Fine Designs opens doors on Thursday

Published 2:04 am Friday, December 15, 2006

By By ANDY HAMILTON / Niles Daily Star
NILES – At first glance, people may wonder why so many items in Fine Designs are geared toward firefighters and emergency workers.
But, the answer becomes clear once they have a chance to read the plaque on the wall. The award that hangs next to the service desk honors Fine Designs co-owner and the Howard Township Firefighter of the Year, Jim Whitesel.
"They needed the help, that's why I was with them for four years," Jim said, referring to M40 Speedway, where he's track safety personnel.
It was at M40 Speedway in Jones where Jim did the duty that earned him the honor of top firefighter. During a race in the spring, he pulled a driver out of a car that was on fire due to an oil leak over the exhaust pipe. He was also one of seven Howard firefighters that assisted Louisiana departments following hurricane Katrina.
Jim has been a firefighter for Howard Township for five years, and during that time the department has ordered their uniforms, pants and jackets from out-of-town businesses. That trend can end now that Jim and his wife Mindy have opened Fine Designs.
The official Four Flags Area Chamber of Commerce grand opening for Fine Designs, 1221 S. 11th St. suite 104 in the Niles Plaza, was held Thursday. The first time business owners were welcomed by Chamber officials, City of Niles representatives and Niles Fire Chief Larry Lamb.
Jim said he joined the Howard Township force because he wanted to work at M40 Speedway. The firefighter training for vehicle accidents has been the perfect learning experience for handling crashes on the racetrack, he said.
The accident that spring day started while the driver was still running on the track, Jim said. As she pulled to a stop, Jim said he grabbed her by her arms and removed her from the cab, and then extinguished the flames.
Fine Designs can print photos on t-shirts, and also offers items with religious themes and sports apparel. But, the most prominent theme throughout the store is the clothing for fire, police and medical personnel.
"She likes t-shirts and I like uniforms and so we threw it into one," Jim said. "I want it to be even. We don't want to get too much of one or another."