Accounts payable

After the fire at the Mill Street shopping center

Co-owner Brad Hoiness of his Rushford Foods delicatessen. His new office will be next to New Beginnings in the new building.
Photo by Wanda Hanson

Thanksgiving Day brought the Rushford Fire Department to the Mill Street Mall on a fire call. By the time they got there, the fire had already gone out, but not before causing extensive smoke and soot damage throughout the mall. The state fire marshal inspected the mall the next day; the claims adjuster also hired an investigator. While the cause of the fire is not certain, it appears to have started near a treadmill at the fitness center.

When co-owner Brad Hoiness first entered the building using his phone’s flashlight to light up, he was amazed at the amount of particles and soot still suspended in the air. The building was not going to be suitable for tenants to use for a while – probably months!

Fortunately, there was a decent building just a block down the road; the building at 212 S. Mill Street was once used by the Marine Credit Union and was for sale. The Monday following the fire, Jim and Brad Hoiness were considering purchasing the building; the following week, tenants were able to start moving into the building. Brad Hoiness credits local realtor Rodney Darr and attorney Terry Chiglo with how quickly they arranged for tenants to legally use the building before the purchase closes.

The Hoinesses contacted Derek Colbenson who graciously abandoned other work and came to measure the building and put the building’s layout on the computer to redesign the space. Brad said, “Derek has a great job! Hoiness also thanked Kathy Zacher for getting the original building plans for them, and Jen Hengel of the Chamber of Commerce who called to offer her personal help with the cleanup and helped spread the word in the area through e- mail and Facebook.

Brad spoke to each of his tenants separately, the tenants met Derek, and then Brad also added a few things he needed to design the new space. One of Brad’s must-haves was a conference room that will be available to all tenants; Engelson & Associates will use part of this space for staff workstations during the four busiest months of the year.

Cory Baker will be able to help with the renovation which involves moving some walls and finishing an area that the Credit Union had not redone after the 2007 flood.

Beth Manfull is at work and ready to serve clients in the new location of Engelson & Associates.
Photo by Wanda Hanson

Brad Hoiness feels lucky that he and his father Jim are able to make business decisions such as buying the building. They have always been careful not to get into too much debt. This business plan came in handy during the flood and now.

Plans for the fire-damaged Mill Street Mall are uncertain; cleaning is continuing at this time. One idea the Hoinesses are playing with is to create downtown housing that would be offered at market prices. Brad said it would take a bit of thought and time; he continued, “We see an opportunity in Rushford; we have to think about all the empty buildings.

The new building is furnished with desks, chairs and a few splashbacks, a godsend as tenants move into their new location. Engelson and Associates and Micah Hanson State Farm Insurance have already moved into their new premises and are doing business there.

Beth Manfull from Engelson commented: “I can’t say enough good things about the Hoinesses – they bought a building for us!” The Engelson Suite is located at the rear of the building, a feature Manfull appreciates. She loves the peace and privacy of the neighborhood.

Micah Hanson State Farm: Terri Benson, Micah Hanson and Nicole Williams in their new office suite.
Photo by Wanda Hanson

All physical client files (around 650) had to be sent for cleaning. The cleaners have promised to return the files by the first of the year. Essential files are also online and can be viewed as well. The computers have been cleaned and returned. One of the biggest challenges after the fire was finishing the payroll. Fortunately, Brown’s Tire used the same software and allowed Beth to use her computers to do payroll.

Engelson’s staff will change; Ruth Peterson and Kathy Wade won’t be returning, but Nancy Rustad and Martha Stensgard will, along with new hires, be WSU accounting student Nolan Mueller, and Courtney Edie finishing her accounting degree.

Once the renovation is complete, customers will enter through the front door and see the company receptionist right away. For now, customers will need to follow the signs. Manfull stressed: “We are here and ready, even though our phone message may not be up to date, we are here!”

The Hanson State Farm offices will be located at the front of the building. In the period immediately following the fire, staff were able to work from home after their laptops were replaced. Last year’s COVID shutdown had prepared them to easily switch to work virtually again. Corporate State Farm had set up emergency coverage for customers to answer calls. Hanson thanked the customers for their patience during this time.

The aftermath of the Thanksgiving fire at the Mill Street shopping center; it is the old fitness center.
Submitted photo

When asked what he appreciates most about the new building, Micah replied, “That he was available! Rushford Foods was able to act quickly and local resources helped get things done! This is a professional office space, fully equipped and just one block from the mall location.

The data connection was completely performed by State Farm; only the placement of certain walls in the suite must be completed, as well as the signage for the company. The familiar State Farm red stripe will likely be added to windows soon.

Hanson wants to make sure people know where the State Farm office is now and that they are ready to serve their customers.

New Beginnings will be located at the rear right of the building. This area was not reworked after the flooding. Laurie Anderson and Lynda Brunsvold want their customers to know their answering machine is always on. Derek Colbenson is in the process of developing plans to submit to the state for approval in order to be eligible for a license. They hope to speed up the remodeling of the area.

Anderson explained that all new equipment and products had to be reordered: “It would have cost more to clean our equipment than to buy new one. “

Anderson thanked the other hairstylists in the area who were great in providing products and equipment. She added that her main sales rep also offered help with cleaning and the product.

The clean-up continues at the Mill Street Mall site.
Photo by Wanda Hanson

O’Donnell Wealth Management will not be joining its old neighbors in the new building. Jeffrey O’Donnell and his brother Jeremy had previously arranged for the purchase of the old Woxland Plumbing building just down the street and were due to move in January. Its building has a history steeped in history, having served as a theater and gymnastics club before it housed Woxland Plumbing. O’Donnell and his assistant Shannon Meier are currently able to meet clients at the front of the building. A new dividing wall as well as a conference room are underway for the space.

Computers have already been replaced and new desks, chairs and other furniture will be arriving soon.

Meier commented, “We are soaking up the sun and watching the cars go by,” which they couldn’t do in their old windowless office. She added that they missed seeing their mall office friends!

Former Senior Benefits tenant Tim Tekautz is still looking for a smaller local office; Brad Hoiness tried to help him with his search.

The fitness center will not reopen; former owners Jim and Marshall Hoiness are hoping someone will open a new fitness center elsewhere in Rushford. Members of the fitness center are eager to find a new location.

Rushford Foods will have an office next to New Beginnings in the new building. At the moment, Brad Hoiness works from his home. Her mother, Gayle, retired from the company’s accounts payable and human resources. Brad and Sarah Brown share the work, with Sarah also taking care of the day-to-day bookkeeping and accounts receivable.

It seems Rushford has much to be thankful for; the Hoinesses were able to purchase and renovate a building to provide space for their tenants to continue operating in Rushford thanks to the cooperation of many Rushford residents. Once again an emergency has done good in a small town!