Out of the ashes

MONMOUTH -- Maggie Triplett said she wasn't angry or sad as she stood across the street from her Petals & Vines gift shop late on June 27.



MONMOUTH -- Maggie Triplett said she wasn't angry or sad as she stood across the street from her Petals & Vines gift shop late on June 27.

The restaurant next door, Real Taste of India, was in flames. Firefighters were trying desperately to keep the blaze from spreading to her store and down the block.

"I don't react that way," Triplett said, noting she and her business neighbors looked on in disbelief as their livelihoods nearly went up in smoke that evening.

"I just go into shock mode," she said. "I didn't know what to do ... it was almost fascinating to watch."

The fire, which would last into the early hours the following day, gutted the restaurant. Triplett's shop and Main Street Pub & Eatery -- located in a different building, but with a shared basement -- suffered varying degrees of water and smoke damage.

Disaster cleaning crews have pored over items in Petals & Vines, inspecting what can be saved, discarding everything else -- including a week's worth of flower inventory.

"It does make you sad to see that all go," Triplett said. "But it's nothing that can't be replaced."

Real Taste of India is boarded up. And Triplett's store was closed for the Fourth of July festivities, a big sales weekend. But any despair from last week's disaster is fleeting.

The owners of 183 W. Main St., Bodie Bemrose and Gary Miller, have vowed to rebuild or restore the property, Bemrose said.

All of the effected businesses were insured. And the owners plan to be up and running as quickly as possible. Main Street Pub, in fact, was back to serving customers this weekend.

"We're still dealing right now with insurance companies," Bemrose said. "But we do know there's going to be a happy ending."

Officials from Polk County Fire District No. 1 and the Marion-Polk Fire Investigation Team have determined the fire began in the kitchen area, near where a walk-in cooler with compressor motors and a heating/air conditioner unit were located.

Private investigators representing Bemrose and Miller's Monmouth Holding Company, LLC and the businesses' owners are now looking for the exact cause of the fire, Polk No. 1 Fire Marshal Jeff Donahue said. An estimated loss for the property was $350,000, Donahue said.

Bemrose said he wouldn't have an exact cost from fire damage or a full idea of how severe structural damage to the property is until sometime this week.

But he and Miller have already met with contractors to start the bidding process to restore or rebuild the structure, he said.

"We are working around the clock on this and are making headway," Bemrose said.

Balwinder Singh, co-owner of Real Taste of India, walked through what was left of his restaurant on Tuesday morning, June 28. Singh and his family had opened their establishment in 2010.

"I am shocked," Singh said, noting the back portion of the ground floor was almost a total loss. "I am feeling very sorry."

Singh said he wants to reopen a restaurant in the same building if possible, or at least remain in the city.

"I like Monmouth," he said. "I like the people, the students and they like my food."

Petals & Vines will relocate soon to 169 Broad St. S., a small building owned by the city of Monmouth, for the next six to eight weeks until the Main Street shop can be cleaned and restored, Triplett said.

"There's so much water and smoke damage, the ceiling and floor have to be ripped out," she said.

City Manager Scott McClure said the city won't be charging rent.

"We value our businesses and we had a unique opportunity to extend a helping hand during a traumatic time," he said.

Triplett said she's had offers from other businesses for storage space and from one community to coordinate a benefit concert to help get them back on their feet.

"All of the owners have had such a wonderful outpouring of goodwill from the community," she said. "There wasn't anything in there that couldn't be replaced, but you can't replace the goodwill."

Fire in Monmouth

* Exact cause of the June 27 fire at Real Taste of India is still unknown, but origin was mechanical equipment near the kitchen.

* Owners of the damaged building at 183 W. Main St. say they will rebuild and restore the property.

* Real Taste of India owner wants to re-open restaurant in same building when possible. Petals & Vines will relocate, temporarily, to 169 Broad St. S. Main Street Pub has already re-opened.



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