City working with business owners to rebuild stores destroyed by Vinton fire

All but the Michael and Dowd furniture store have officially opened in new locations. Michael and Dowd will be re-opening in a smaller location on the same street in a few weeks.

Leaders are trying to find the best way forward after a devastating fire knocked a number of businesses out of operation.

The fire destroyed the Michael and Dowd furniture store, Clingman Pharmacy, and caused significant damage to Fischer Law Firm and the Benton Title Company.

“It was very numbing at first," said Robert Fischer, owner of the Fischer Law Firm. "I’ve come to accept it."

Nearly a month after the fire that devastated several Vinton businesses owners are trying to move on.

“A lot of days it’s just difficult, because it consumes so much of your energy," said Fischer.

All but the Michael and Dowd furniture store have officially opened in new locations.

“It’s been very very busy for sure, but it’s been good,” said Jon Clingman, owner of Clingman Pharmacy.

Clingman said as of Saturday he has been running his pharmacy from a rented storefront that used to be a frozen yogurt shop.

“We all have to find a temporary home, which could easily turn into more of a semi-permanent home," said Clingman.

“It’s a highly emotional time [and] life changing for all of them," said Jim Engle, Director of the Iowa Downtown Resource Center, which is part of the Iowa Economic Development Authority.

Which is why the city and the Iowa Downtown Resource Center are offering an opportunity for those businesses to rebuild on the same block.

“They’ve been here for many many years, many generations. They are part of Vinton,” said Vinton City Administrator Chris Ward.

The city can apply for a $100,000 dollar grant through the resource center in emergency events—like a fire. It is only offered once a year, and it would not be guaranteed to the city of Vinton if another location were to apply to the grant, as well. Owners who want to benefit from this grant would have to agree to rebuild in that block.

Still, these owners are not sure if they can rebuild even for the title company and law firm, who's structures are still standing

“The front of our building is still intact. I don’t know how sound it is," said Fischer. "That’s going to impact on our decision as to rebuild at that location."

“There’s now an issue of our building isn't sealed, so now when its snowing or its raining like yesterday, water is getting into the building, and causing more damage," said Dan McCann, Vice President of the Benton County Title Company.

It may take awhile before these owners know what they’ll do long term, but all agree they hope to see that part of town come back to life.

“We would love to see it come back, we would love to see the block be used again for retail or some sort of business…as opposed to a green space or parking lot," said McCann.

Lisa Vogt, one of the owners of Michael and Dowd said she anticipates opening their new location in a couple of weeks, which is just down the street. She also said while they hope to move back into their original location, they anticipate being at this spot around two years.

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