I'm sure a lot of our customers have a vivid memory when the Grand Forks store burned on December 3, 1987. The fire started soon after we closed and by the next morning the store was all but gone.
The state fire marshal and a investigator hired by the insurance company came to the same conclusion that the fire was caused by a cigarette being thrown in a trash can. When you look at the pictures you find it hard to believe that they could narrow it down like that. The insurance guy explained it out to me and he did make a compelling case. They knew what part of the store the fire started. They combed that area and found the remains of a plastic trash can that was folded in upon itself. He said that when a fire burns outside of a plastic trash can it falls over. But when the fire starts inside of it, the can curls in and folds up.
I'm proud to say that we were open up in the same location by September 19th of the next year. We had temporary locations all over town almost right away.
I was showing our buyer from the deep South pictures of the aftermath and thought that while many won't care, it would be interesting for those that were around back then.
That's the front of the store. As you can see it's pretty well gone. What's interesting in that is that under that rubble was a picture of my Grandfather and a plaque he received from the buying group he founded. Those survived in good shape, somehow, and hang in our conference room today.
Another picture of the front of the store. As you can see, the Pepsi machine almost survived.
This picture was taken about the same spot as the one above it. The only thing is the cameraman was facing the other direction. You can see the shop doors in the back of the picture.
We had a very large presence by the Grand Forks and East Grand Forks fire departments. Since we didn't have a fire alarm in the old building it was too late to do much by the time they got here.
Here's a picture of the North Entrance. This entrance opened up in the sporting goods department in the old store. We had plenty of parking there but the entrance wasn't real popular with the customers. When we rebuilt we shifted the building site and had the other entrance on the South Side opening into the Farm and Auto department. This works much better for the customers. Our traffic is very nearly split between the two doors except during the Christmas season.
Here's a picture of the back of the old store, where we had furniture. As a reference in the background on the right you can see the two story warehouse that we still have. The wall to the right was a block wall for the old warehouse behind the store. That warehouse was heavily damaged. We had it tore down because it didn't fit in our plans for a modern store.
A complete loss. The night of December 3rd was very cold that year. I think it was the first night that winter where the temperature was below zero.
The flag still flies over the rubble. We saved that flag and had it cleaned. We've got it in storage, although I don't expect we'll fly it again.