Downtown battles back from devastating storm
Several businesses in downtown Tonganoxie received extensive damage from the May 11 tornado.
Those businesses are close to getting or have finally gotten past some of the setbacks and repairs that resulted from the tornado.
Destruction to Pelzl Do It Best and V&S Variety, 423 E. Fourth, totaled about $110,000, owner Don Pelzl said.
The tornado ripped the awning off the front of the store, took off the roof, damaged the flat roof underneath, ruined about half of the tiling on the inside, destroyed a couple of furnaces and ripped off business signs in the front of the building. Pelzl also lost about $40,000 worth of merchandise in the storm.
Within the next couple weeks, Pelzl said the store should finally be back to normal.
Unlike some of the other businesses, Pelzl didn't stay open while making repairs. In fact, he was forced to keep his doors closed for about five weeks. Pelzl thought he would be closed at most a couple of weeks, however. Luckily, his insurance covered the damage.
"Without insurance, we would've been in trouble," he said. "Everything is finally pretty close to being done now. I thought things would be done so much quicker."
Another huge help was the business interruption insurance he also had. That helped relieve some of the financial pressures of closing for more than a month.
When Pelzl finally reopened, the flooring repairs were not quite finished.
"I just hope we don't have to do this all again,"
After being open for only three weeks before the tornado swept through town, Bichelmeyer's Steakhouse suffered an abrupt setback from tornado damages.
"The main thing is that we survived," co-owner Vicki
Bichelmeyer said. "I'm proud of how everybody jumped back in the place to start cleaning up. It was kind of like starting all over again for us, though."
Co-owner Matt Bichelmeyer said they lost some of the help and when the restaurant finally reopened, they had to start from scratch and train many of their employees.
The tornado couldn't have come at a worse time for Bichelmeyer's. After all, the restaurant at 427 E. Fourth was booked solid for Mother's Day.
With such a tragedy happening in the first month of being open, the Bichelmeyers were a little taken aback and weren't sure if they could get things back on track.
They were especially surprised when they saw how quickly things started to bounce back once they reopened after just two weeks of being closed.
The $95,000 loss was huge. Insurance only compensated for about 50 percent to 60 percent of the loss, they said.
Despite the slow start because of the tornado, the Bichelmeyers said the business is doing well now.
"The hardest thing was to wake up every morning and get out of bed to fight it," Matt Bichelmeyer said.
"It left us with a lot of debt because we were underinsured for something of this magnitude. It set us back quite a few months."
Shilling Electric, 511 E. Fourth, sustained about $40,000 worth of damage after the tornado.
Unfortunately, Roger Shilling, owner, said that his business had been dropped by the insurance company, unbeknownst to him.
So, Shilling had to eat the expenses for repairing his business.
Despite the obstacles, Shilling said the repairs to his business are nearly complete.
He anticipates the roof and a few other lingering repairs to be complete by July. Shilling said he is just waiting for the black tar roofing on his roof to be done.
The tornado took the roofs from both his shop and nearby maintenance garage. His roof was ripped from his shop and dropped next door onto Lenahan's Hardware. Shilling said his business didn't close during repairs. Employees and family spent countless hours draining water, cleaning up and working to repair what they could to Shilling's shop.
"We're trying to stay caught up," Shilling said.
"The spare moments we have are spent working on the roof. It's still a work in progress. Water still comes in when it rains."
Initially, it took three or four days of working to remove his roof from Lenahan's.
Lenahan's Hardware, 515 E. Fourth, probably incurred the least amount of damage in the string of businesses on Fourth Street from Delaware Street to Green Street.
John Lenahan, owner, said his utilities were ripped away and torn out of the meter base and that the roof from Shilling Electric was flung on top of his.
Crews worked the day after to remove Shilling's roof from Lenahan's.
Despite damage, Lenahan continued to operate for five days without electricity. He used candlelight.
Lenahan's damage was under $2,000, which was $500 less than the insurance deductible would have been. So, his insurance essentially didn't cover the damage.
When it rains, Lenahan still finds an occasional part of the roof that leaks.
"I'm still working on getting the roof completely fixed," he said.
Lenahan said it was a couple of weeks before most of the initial repairs and clean up were made to his business.
"I was a fortunate one in this block," Lenahan said.
"As for some of the other businesses that received more damage, financially, it may take them years to rescue what they lost."