Furniture store won’t reopen downtown; repairs and restoration after fire next door “not financially feasible”

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The family that owns the Home Style Furniture store in downtown St. Joseph held an emotional news conference Tuesday to announce that a fire next door five months ago caused enough damage to their building that they will not be able to reopen the business.

As we’ve reported, the Hand family has been waiting quite a while to find out what their future holds.  Bob Hand said they recently received an analysis from a structural engineering firm.

“Due to the extreme heat from the fire, the large anount of water to suppress the fire, and the collapse of the adjacent building into our building’s firewall, our building has sustained significant exterior and interior damage,” Hand said. There was also damage to the building’s foundation. The cost to repair the 136-year-old building proved too much, even though Hand says the building was insured.

The announcement was an emotional one. “There’s nothing like our building,” said Deana Hand, “our kids they grew up here.”

“She’s 19, he’s 23, our oldest is 26,” she said, “we’ve been in business 21 years.”

The family spent considerable effort after the fire looking for a new location to reopen the business, but Bob Hand says they haven’t found one. “We stopped looking, because we wanted to focus our energy on staying here,” he said. “Although we knew the damages that were around us, we felt like ‘let’s focus on here.’”

“We have done some stuff, to look at other possibilities, other buildings, but right now, after receiving the information that we got, we need to take some time, we need to consider what all our possibilities are.”

Deana Hand says they still have about 5,000 square feet of furniture in storage. That furniture, mostly living room pieces, was delivered as the fire was still burning. She said they would love to reopen downtown, but there aren’t very many buildings there that offer what they had, including close parking, large amounts of storage space, and a loading dock.

“We love the downtown, but this building presented everything we needed,” said Bob Hand.

With all the fires and water main problems in the downtown area lately, he says someone, perhaps the city of the fire department, needs to make sure this doesn’t happen again. “Somebody needs to take the lead on going to, not just vacant buildings, but primarily vacant buildings, to go to any building that has a fire-supression system in it, and make sure it is up to code and functioning,” he said.