“All of our memories for 24 years were gone.” Business owner recounts fire that destroyed multiple stores

loogootee-fire

LOOGOOTEE, Ind. (WTHI) – This week marks two years since the fire that destroyed several stores. Only one of the original stores remains on the strip.

That’s where you’ll find Rosie’s T-shirts and Gifts.

From the moment you walk in, you’ll see Rosie’s sewing machine spinning away.

“This is what I love to do,” said owner Rosie Bridges.

She started her business right out of school in her parents’ basement. Business was better than ever until one November morning, two years ago.

“It was a nightmare and I kept thinking I want to wake up but I was living it,” said Bridges.

Two years ago on November 12, Loogootee Square erupted in flames. The fire started in Rosie’s shop, ripping through her business and seven others.

“Becky, the woman that works for me, grabbed her coat and purse, and that’s the only thing we got out,” said Bridges.

“My daughter, she grew up there,” said Bridges.

It destroyed everything. Every spool of thread and t-shirt of school pride was gone in a matter of minutes. Rosie can still remember standing on the sidewalk watching those memories disintegrate.

“So all of our memories for 24 years was gone,” said Bridges.

Now her original lot sits empty. The other small businesses had to shut down or relocate because rebuilding was too expensive.

“I think some of the businesses that did relocate would have rebuilt here but as we all know to build a store front here would probably be $500,000,” said Loogootee Mayor, Noel Harty.

“I knew that day that we were going to rebuild and I was going to be back in town and we weren’t going to close,” said Bridges.

Now Rosie has found a new home for her shop two doors down. But each morning she still walks by that abandoned lot, hoping one day it’ll be filled with new shops and new memories as good as hers.

Mayor Harty says he hopes the city can receive grants for future development on those empty lots downtown.