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Huntington Regroups After Downtown Fire

Clark Davis

The city of Huntington regrouped Monday as business owners and residents of the Morris Building tried to figure out what’s next after a Sunday morning fire.

The first call came in at 8:39 a.m Sunday, one of the oldest buildings in downtown Huntington caught fire forcing the city fire department and neighboring volunteer departments to go on high alert. The fire reportedly started in an old elevator shaft near the top of the seven floor building. The building housed approximately 10 residents and several businesses, including the popular Backyard Pizza and Raw Bar and The Peddler on the first floor. Both restaurants are owned by Drew and Megan Hetzer.

“At first you have the shock of the moment and it takes a while for it to sink in and right after all that settles and you keep thinking about it, you just have to keep a positive mindset and thank about everyone else and how it’s affecting everything as a whole and come up with a game-plan and that’s what we’re doing today and will be doing for quite some time,” Hetzer said.

No residents were injured in the blaze that destroyed the roof, but one firefighter suffered a leg injury. Hetzer said once they can better access the damage which mainly seems to be caused by water in the first floor restaurants they’ll come up with a plan. He said the support they have already received shows there is no other decision, but to try to rebuild or reopen somewhere else.

More than 50 employees are employed by the Hetzer’s two restaurants. Those employees will get help from the insurance the Hetzer’s have, but also from support from the community. A crowdsourcing campaign has been created with a goal of $20,000 for the employees of the two restaurants. And other restaurants like D.P. Dough, New York Bagel and St. Marks bar in are pitching in, in different ways that include donations of tips and possible temporary employment.

But Backyard Pizza and The Peddler weren’t the old businesses in the building. Leslie Comer-Porter is the Executive Director of the Development Therapies Center which sat on the third floor of the Morris Building. They’ve provided therapy to children with disabilities in Huntington since 1954. Comer-Porter said it’s important they find a new location quick.

Credit Clark Davis

“It’s going to be a huge impact on the people that rely on our services,” Comer-Porter said. “We have a team of 22 that services the community, but we’ve had a pouring of outreach from the community calling to lend a hand so hopefully we’ll find a temporary home and be up providing services again within a few days.”

As a firefighter Scott Mellert was in the middle of the fight, as a store owner his business the Pet Palace was just two doors down in the Renaissance Building.

“We all feel like we’re business partners together because we’re all right here together and we all have to help each other, I certainly feel for Drew and am willing to help anyway I can,” Mellert said.

Credit Clark Davis

Drew’s wife Megan and the co-owner of Backyard Pizza and The Peddler, said there is no way they’re backing down now.

“Definitely not, this is our life, this is our passion and a little fire isn’t going to stop us, so if we have to move to another building we will, but we’re hoping this building can be saved and we’ll rebuild,” Megan Hetzer said.

The Huntington Fire Department says the fire was out at about noon Sunday. 

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