Businesses eye future after blaze


Register/Richard Luken
The interior of an apartment directly above Salon Nyne is filled with charred debris after a Friday evening fire injured an Iola man. Crews began clearing out the apartment this morning.

With the acrid smell of smoke still in the air, it was a tough go for a few Iola businesses on the south side of the square this morning after Friday night’s fire. Salon Nyne, 9 E. Madison, Party Girls, 7 E. Madison, and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Allen County, 91⁄2 E. Madison, bore the brunt of the damage which started in an apartment above the hair salon.
Kim Folk, owner of Salon Nyne, said she doesn’t yet know how extensive her recovery will be. The hair salon was directly beneath an apartment where the fire started.
The fire gutted the apartment. The office of Big Brothers Big Sisters was next to the apartment. It sustained heavy fire, smoke and water damage as well.
Folk said a contractor and engineer will be in her hair salon this afternoon to survey the extent of the damage.
“We’re exploring our options,” she said.
This morning, crews were in a pair of upstairs apartments — where the fire started — to clear out the charred remains.
“We’re not sure how it’s going to go,” Folk said of the repairs. “We may have to tear off the top.”
While her building remains closed, Salon Nyne will remain open. Vonda Smith, owner of Town Square Tannery and Salon, 11 W. Madison Ave., will allow Folk and the three other hair and nail stylists to work at the Tannery on a temporary basis.
“We’ve got a lot of cleanup to do, but I guess it could have been a lot worse,” Folk said. “It’ll be nice when we can at least get rid of the nasty smoky smell.”
Jackie Smith of Big Brothers Big Sisters was in the office clearing out shirts, papers and anything else that could be saved.
Fortunately, all of the files were saved, “and our computers were backed up so I have the files at my house,” she said.
There wasn’t much else salvageable, Smith noted as she pulled a few boxes of materials from the apartment. The remaining items will go to the dump.
The BBBS will operate temporarily in a space in the Thrive Allen County office at 2 E. Jackson.
“This will give them time to get on their feet,” said David Toland, executive director of Thrive.

MARY SMITH, co-owner of Classy Attic, 15 E. Madison, was counting her blessings this morning.
Preliminary surveys showed no smoke or water damage.
Dick Habiger of All Clean LLC was in the store Saturday morning with a number of commerical ozone scrubbers, which rid the air of smoky odors. By this morning, the scrubbers had rid the store of the faintest hint that a fire had taken place just down the street.
Classy Attic reopened at 10 o’clock today.
“We’re very, very happy with how the firefighters responded,” Smith said. “They did a phenomenal job of getting the fire contained.”

SHELLIE MUELLER of Party Girls said the catering business faces “thousands of dollars” of lost food damaged by the pervasive smoke that flooded the store. Mueller learned of the fire from Iolan Robert Storrer who called her Friday night as he drove in front of the business after leaving the football game.
A fender bender in front of the store had gathered a crowd of high schoolers from the visiting team from Independence. Mueller said once she opened the doors that a bunch of Independence teens helped her and Iola firefighters remove much of the contents from the front part of the store. Mueller stored the items in the old Clearwater Bay store, two stores to the west, owned by Terry Sparks.
Mueller said she and her crew had about 30 minutes to work clearing items out of the store until firefighters said “no more” as firefighting efforts continued.
She’s hoping many of the items such as purses and scarves can be adequately cleaned and put back up for sale.
Habinger and his crew of Iola’s All Clean, LLC, were busy early this morning cleaning the building’s interior. As for the food, she’s waiting to hear from state health inspectors about its viability.
One of Mueller’s first concerns Friday night were two cakes she had baked that afternoon for a Saturday event. “They were in the walk-in freezer, a vacuum-sealed unit. I thought surely they would be safe. I ended up baking two more cakes Saturday morning.”
Beyond the front room, Party Girls has two more rooms in back for foor preparation purposes. The business has three big freezer chests, two refrigerators, a walk-in cooler and two other coolers to store food. Mueller fears all of their contents are beyond saving.
Party Girls is staying in business “as much as we can,” Mueller said. The caterers have obligations “every day this week,” she said and is using the kitchen at the Allen County Country Club.
Glen Coffield, owner of Town and Country Western Wear deferred from speaking with reporters until he had met with his insurance adjuster.
Addictive Trendz owner Cassandra Jones said her business was lucky.
“We really didn’t have any damage,” she said of the fire that hit the Salon Nyne building on Iola’s square Friday night.
While other neighboring business sustained smoke damage, Addictive Trendz, 23 E. Madison, was less affected.
“We could smell smoke,” Jones said, “but we really didn’t sustain smoke damage.”
She credited that fact to the structure of the building. “We have hardwood floors, we have tile,” Jones said. “It’s not really anything that will absorb smoke.”
She feels for her neighbors, though, whose apparel businesses sopped up smoke like a sponge. And for her fellow stylists at Salon Nyne. “They’re in a really bad spot,” Jones said.
Stylists are independent contractors, not employees, and rent chairs at a salon, Jones said, so when a location is rendered unavailable, it’s like putting numerous small business people out of work.
To assist them, “I offered Salon Nyne some chairs while they’re trying to work things out,” Jones said, though she has yet to confirm the working arrangement.
Sparks, an insurance salesman with State Farm Insurance, 15 W. Madison, said Iola was fortunate “we didn’t lose the south side of the square,” from the fire. Still, that doesn’t minimize what the store owners with structural damage face.
“Unfortunately, most 100-year-old buildings are under-insured,” Sparks said. “Ideally, a structure should be insured for 80 percent of what it would cost to replace it. These old buildings can come relatively cheap, but replacing them is expensive,” he said. “Most people don’t want to pay the premiums that gives them adequate coverage.”
Kim Strickler of Farm Bureau Insurance, 5 E. Madison, had hired Steam Way Cleaners from Parsons to wipe down the walls, shampoo carpets of her business.
Other than a smoky smell, the business sustained no damage, Strickler said.