Rhonda Holman-Keefe was vacationing in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula Oct. 9 when she got word that her Delta antiques business was suffering the brunt of an overhead fire.
The spacious second floor apartment above Bad Creek Antiques was reported ablaze at 10:30 a.m. The fire filled two-thirds of the shop below at 215-219 Main St. with smoke and soot. Fire crews from Delta, Wauseon, and Swanton fought the flames, which caused unavoidable water damage through the shop’s ceiling. One of the apartment’s four residents was home when the fire broke out, and managed to escape through a second story window with help from people standing below.
The fire is the second blow this year to the antique shop, co-owned by Holman-Keefe’s friend, Julie Hinz. Like other businesses, Bad Creek Antiques was forced to close when the coronavirus reared its head last spring, and didn’t regain traction until re-opening in mid-summer. Now, Holman-Keefe hopes it can fully recover.
“It was kind of just surreal,” she said. “You don’t know what to think or say when you see (the damage). You just know there’s a lot of work to get back open.”
Unfortunately, the fire hit just as the shop’s busiest months lay ahead. Business had been good since re-opening during summer, and customers were obeying state regulations for masks and social distancing.
“We were off to a good start for September,” Holman-Keefe said. “You try to keep the bills covered (during the pandemic) and then it re-opens and this happens. We’re hoping business can bounce back. I believe it will if we can get open soon enough.”
Spread across the first floors of three buildings over a century old, Bad Creek Antiques is one of the businesses up and running on Delta’s Main Street. Now, with two of its three rooms cleaned and repaired, a soft re-opening is scheduled for two of the rooms this Saturday, with a grand re-opening scheduled for Nov. 7.
The first room of the antique shop was left unscathed, reportedly due to fire walls. But the second and third rooms were heavily damaged by smoke and soot from the fire and water leaking through the drop ceilings during the firefighters’ efforts. The third room, located in the third building, was in fact so damaged it will not re-open until after the beginning of 2021.
Damage to both the overhead apartment – which the fire gutted – and the antique shop was estimated at $500,000. The blaze started in one of the apartment’s three bedrooms, and took the lives of a cat and dog. According to Delta Community Fire Department Chief Scott Smith, the cause is still listed as undetermined after investigations by a local inspector, a state fire marshal, and an insurance investigator.
“It’s a charred mess upstairs. The fire literally took it to the studs,” Hinz said. “That fire stayed in one bedroom but it was the smoke damage that killed everything.”
Fortunately, not all of the antiques. Sold by half a dozen vendors in rental spaces throughout the shop, about 100 pieces were salvaged and moved to the undamaged room in the first building as soon as admittance to the business was permitted following the fire.
Still, between the fire damage and the earlier closure for several months, the financial burden has proven heavy for the antique shop’s owners. Opened by Hinz and her husband, Larry, in 2002 as Fulton County Crafts Mall, the business began leaning more toward antiques, and two years later became Hinz Haus Antiques. An adjacent building was purchased to expand operations, and in July of 2015 Hinz, who works full-time as a physical therapy assistant, relinquished her managerial duties to Holman-Keefe, a vendor who became co-owner. The business was renamed Bad Creek Antiques.
‘I wasn’t going to let it go,” Hinz said of the antique shop after the fire. “I put just about my whole life savings into it. It was a dream for me, and it’s a retirement for my husband and myself.”
Holman-Keefe, an office manager for a Toledo physician, added, “It’s heartbreaking. Some of us have been there for years. It’s your passion, your hobby, as as well as a business. We decided we wanted to rebuild, because downtown Delta doesn’t have much there.”
They set about replacing ceilings and carpeting, discarding water-sodden items, repairing the electrical system, and removing smoke and soot damage. Larry Hinz took particular care in restoring the original maple hardwood floors in the third building space, which had been flooded. “My husband refused to let them go,” Julie Hinz said.
Now, with the rooms in the first and second buildings repaired, Holman-Keefe is hopeful business can resume as usual. But although some vendors renting space are anxious to return, others aren’t. The business had a waiting list for vendors during the coronavirus closing, “but other people decided they didn’t want to do it anymore, and some people on the waiting list opted out,” Holman-Keefe said.
Should Bad Creek Antiques not recover enough vendors, the room in the third building may remained closed or be offered for sale or lease, Hinz said. “But we hope to open with a greater amount of vendors with more antiques and collectibles,” she added.
She offered a shout-out to the firefighters who battled the blaze, saying their due diligence might have saved that entire village block from being destroyed.
Hinz said the community has shown heartfelt support for Bad Creek Antiques. “We need these small businesses to stay open and keep the town alive,” she said. “I feel a strong opinion to stay open to encourage other businesses to open up here. I’m anxious to get back into it.”
Delta Mayor Bob Gilbert said village administrators consider any business within the limits important to the village’s success. “Anything we can do to help those businesses, we’re all for it,” he said.
Gilbert said he’s grateful the Bad Creek Antique owners decided to re-open.
“They have an allegiance to Delta, and so, therefore, the citizens of Delta support them also, as well as the leadership. They are very important to us, and we never underestimate what they do for us,” he said.
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.