By Kim Brooks, Express Editor
Two weeks ago, a devastating fire took a hit to the City of Monticello’s downtown district, affecting four businesses and a handful of apartments. In no time at all, some of the businesses are up and running, serving their customers and this community better than ever!
Keleher’s Jewelry served the downtown location for 18 years.
“It’s just a different scene for us now,” said owner Tom Keleher looking out his new storefront at 315 S. Main St. (next to Subway). “Going through those doors everyday, this is going to take some getting used to.”
Keleher joked he misses running across the street to Dollar General for his chocolate bar fix.
After the fire on Nov. 28, Keleher said he has to really commend his wife, Teri, for her rapid response time in wanting to get their business back up and running again.
“She found a new place in no time. I was really more in shock myself,” remarked Keleher of the whole ordeal.
Their new temporary location fits their business quite well, as there was already an alarm system installed at the former State Farm office.
With losing a week of business between the move and everything, Keleher said business is up and running as usual, with Betty Schmit and Kathy Cooper filling showcases and waiting on customers. Keleher’s was able to get showcases from local businesses to once again display his jewelry. All of the boxes that housed the individual jewelry pieces had to be tossed out due to smoke damage. Friends and family members of the Kelehers spent time cleaning jewelry and placing them in new boxes for sale.
“You don’t realize how much you have until something like this happens,” said Keleher of the time and effort it took to re-open.
Some merchandise such as clocks, jewelry boxes and picture frames had to be reordered. Keleher said they were lucky the jewelry could be cleaned.
With a new temporary location, Keleher said this whole experience has regenerated his passion for business once again.
“This is just temporary,” he said. “We want to go back downtown and serve the community for 18 more years.”
Sandy Moats and Diane Gray from Monticello Carpet & Interiors have been temporarily displaced, working out of an office at ITS. As of Thursday, Dec. 13, Monticello Carpet will be downtown once again, selling merchandise and serving customers at 107 W. First St. (the former Almost Famous Dance Studio).
On Friday, Dec. 7, workers were inside putting up new drywall in preparation for the move.
“We will have a good set up here,” noted Moats looking around their new place. “It’s smaller than what we had; we’re able to work with it.”
Gray added, “We’re just happy to be back downtown again.”
After the fire, thanks to ITS and businesses owners of Monticello Carpet, Moats and Gray were equipped with phones and computers to handle customer calls and place orders.
“We didn’t skip a beat,” said Moats.
At their new location on W. First St., Monticello Carpet with offer their full service to the community with home accessories, décor items, as well as blinds and flooring. Moats did say they may be limited on their décor items, but can take orders.
Like Keleher’s, the gals from Monticello Carpet said this experience is allowing them to start new again.
“It’s a new beginning,” said Gray. “What we lost was just a structure; we didn’t lose the business.”
Moats and Gray said they, as well as the business owners, are committed to this community and their customers.
“We’re moving forward stronger than ever,” Moats said. “We’re putting a lot of work into the new location.”
Both gave high regards to the owners of Monticello Carpet (Cascade Lumber) for their on-going support to the business here in Monticello and the community.
Bob Chronowski, owner of Home Furniture Gallery, wants his customers and the Monticello community to know that he is still in business while working from home. While some of the other downtown businesses have been able to relocate and reopen, Chronowski said it isn’t that easy for him.
“I had orders coming in and commitments I made to my customers,” he said. With nothing comparable in size to his building and showroom, Chronowski is temporarily storing orders and merchandise in a warehouse in town. “I’m trying to fulfill my customers’ orders.” Half of Chronowski’s business came in the form of walk-ins and the other half special orders.
With the holiday season the busiest time of the year for these businesses, Chronowski said what he misses is the foot traffic and drive-by customers.
“My cash flow has diminished because people are not coming through the door,” he said. “And I still have bills to pay.”
For now, the Home Furniture Gallery’s phone number (465-5600) is still in service. The number dials into Chronowski’s home number.
“It’s business as usual,” he said, as normal as you can get in a situation like this.
Chronowski is optimistic he will soon reopen again downtown, but everything is up in the air when it comes to insurance companies and the fate of the other affected buildings.
“I need a space big enough to display my furniture and continue to do business,” Chronowski said. “There is limited space available here in Monticello.” He also needs access for semis to unload orders as well.
The smoke damage inside the furniture store can be seen on everything that was exposed and smells in the air when you walk inside. Chronowski explained he would have to make sure the interior was cleaned perfectly before he would want to bring new furniture back in to sell.
“Upholstery absorbs everything,” said Chronowski. He said if there were any hint of smoke in the walls, it would be detected in the furniture.
Chronowski has been in business for 14 years in downtown Monticello. He has hopes to keep going as long as he can get back into his 115-year-old building.
“I want to stay in business!” Chronowski said.
Tease Salon & Spa, owned by Carrie Schroeder, was slated to open for business on Nov. 28 when the fire occurred early that morning. Schroeder had just moved into her new location on First Street.
For now, Schroeder wants customers to know she will open for business, and is moving her salon in the back of The Dance Academy, located next to Subway at 321 S. Main St. Clients can still call Tease Salon’s number at 465-3779, which is forwarded to Schroeder’s cell phone. You can also contact Schroeder at 319-533-2224 or Kelsey Goedken, who also works at Tease, at 319-202-4076 to schedule appointments.
“I will continue to take orders for custom made hair bows and tutus for those special holiday gifts,” Schroeder reminded her customers.
PHOTO: Top: Monticello Carpet & Interiors will soon be moving into their temporary location at the former Almost Famous Dance Studio, 107 W. First St. The Chamber Ambassadors recently paid them a visit. From left are Kathy Bone, Judy Tuetken, Jill Cheney, Sandy Moats, Annette Smith and Judy Dumond.
Middle: The Monticello Chamber Ambassadors visited the new, temporary location for Keleher’s Jewelry at 315 S. Main St. In the photo from left are Barbara Hoffman, Nels Petersen, Cheryl Dirks, Jill Cheney, Peg Arduser, Kimberly Kremer, Teri and Tom Keleher, Betty Schmit, Kathy Cooper, Judy Dumond, Annette Smith and Judy Tuetken.
Bottom: Inside their temporary location at 315 S. Main St., Keleher’s Jewelry displays showcases inside the various offices. They were able to rent and borrow cases from local businesses in the meantime. (Photos by Kim Brooks)