Fire damages shop, bar

Monday, July 21, 2003

An early morning fire Sunday caused moderate damage to a gift shop and bar at the corner of Independence and Henderson.

At 3:45 a.m., the Cape Girardeau Fire Department received a call saying there was a fire in a storage shed attached to the back of Holiday Happenings and Independence Place. Firefighters from Cape Girardeau, Jackson and Scott City spent two hours getting the fire under control.

Holiday Happenings, a floral and gift shop specializing in holiday decorations, was hit the hardest. Ceramics and ceramic molds, ice machines, a deep freeze and Christmas merchandise for next season were all destroyed in the fire.

"The fire knocked out the storage shed, which was full of ceramics and Christmas decorations," said Cape Girardeau battalion chief Tom Hinkebein. "There was also some heat and smoke damage upstairs in Independence Place and some water damage on the lower floor."

As in all fires at commercial buildings, the state fire marshal and an Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agent were sent in to investigate, Hinkebein said. The official report of the cause of the fire won't be completed for two to three weeks, but the state fire marshal is fairly certain that the blaze was caused by wiring in the storage shed, he said.

The fire went through the openings in the exterior wall of Independence Place to cause smoke and fire damage there. An open porch area attached to the rear of Independence Place was destroyed as well.

The current estimated cost of damage to the structure is $48,000.

Rick Warner, the owner of the businesses, said he isn't sure how much money was lost in merchandise, but that there was quite a bit in the shed. The lighting for the bar's dance floor was also damaged and his pet cat was killed in the blaze, Warner said.

In addition to the merchandise that was destroyed at Holiday Happenings, Hinkebein said Independence Place may lose much of its stock of alcohol. According to state rules, any food or drink items, even if in a sealed container, that may have been exposed to heat or contaminants must be disposed of, said Hinkebein.

Reopening date uncertain

Warner has been the co-owner of Independence Place with Mike Thies for 16 years and the sole owner of Holiday Happenings for 12. The building the businesses are housed in is owned by Warner's mother, Betty Metcalfe. Warner says that he's not sure when either establishment will be able to reopen or what the damage will be in lost business.

"I'm just really upset right now," Warner said.

The building was insured, but the insurance money might not be enough to repair the damage and replace the lost inventory, Metcalfe said.

"It makes me sick, and it makes my son even sicker," she said. "His livelihood's gone."

335-6611 extension 226

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