- Associated Press - Monday, May 5, 2014

MITCHELL, S.D. (AP) - Residents of Mitchell are remembering a fire a decade ago that destroyed three Main Street businesses and damaged two others in a single building.

The blaze broke out about 2 a.m. on Saturday, May 1, 2004. A Davison County sheriff’s deputy driving down Main Street noticed smoke billowing from the building’s third floor. By the time firefighters arrived, the heat and smoke were so great that they had to stay outside.

The fire destroyed The Scoreboard sports bar, The Little Red Hen home goods and handmade items store and the recently renovated Mitchell Area Community Theatre. The building had stood for nearly a century. Firefighters narrowed the source of the blaze to upstairs apartments but no official cause was ever determined.

“It was hard,” Cathy Weber, owner of The Little Red Hen, told The Daily Republic (http://bit.ly/1lRjxxX ). “But there was never a moment where I was thinking that I was going to hang it up and quit, because I love what I do.”

Bar owner Steve Culhane remembers the call he received in the middle of the night.

“You could see the flames shooting up and coming over the side of the building,” he said. “I just said, ‘Oh my goodness.’ It didn’t take very long to figure out it was going to be a total loss.”

While the fire devastated Main Street, it didn’t put an end to any of the affected businesses. All five are still in operation, in different locations.

“We knew we weren’t just going to give up,” said Al Jacklin, a board member of the community theater group.

The group lost years’ worth of memorabilia but never missed a show due to the fire. The group used the school auditorium and Dakota Wesleyan University for its productions before moving into an old museum. It took six months to raise $394,000 and renovate the museum into the Pepsi-Cola Theatre. The first show played to sellout crowds in fall 2005.

“Members of the community just really stepped up to make it happen,” said Jacklin’s wife, Teri.

First United Methodist Church now owns the lot and has considered several options, including a family life center, a parking lot and an outdoor worship space.

“We still have a dream for that space,” said Jan Quenzer, chairwoman of the church’s board of trustees.


Information from: The Daily Republic, http://www.mitchellrepublic.com