Garrettsville -- Though the village survived a devastating fire March 22 that claimed a large commercial block downtown, it may be a while before it is business as usual again for the 2,200 residents.
The state fire marshal's office said the cause of the blaze is officially undetermined, and may never be known. While a best "guesstimate" of damages by firefighters and investigators is $5 million, Mayor Rick Patrick said the cost to rebuild could be double or triple that.
To replace developer Mike Maschek's Buckeye Building, he said, could cost $3 million to $3.5 million alone, using 30,000 square feet at $150 per square foot as a guide.
Replacing the large buildings that formerly housed Chic and Shabby Resale and Shaker Tree, "we're talking double or triple that estimate -- $10 million to $15 million," Patrick said.
Some of the debris from the devastating fire has been cleared from the north side of Main Street. Patrick said the law office of Robert Mishler has been salvaged, and the two lots where Miller Lawn & Garden and Shiffer's Clock Repair were located have since been bought by Maschek.
"That's going to make it easier for him to rebuild," he said.
Fundraisers are still going on, while some business owners have found new locations to ply their trades. A majority of the 13 affected businesses have since relocated or found temporary office space elsewhere, said Benjamin Coll, president of the Garrettsville Area Chamber of Commerce.
COLL ALSO is on the Garrettsville Strong rebuilding fund board. He and Patrick said the board has chosen not to publicize the total amount of money donated at this time.
"As a board, we feel like publicizing a running total would be detrimental to fundraising efforts," he said.
"The only thing we've decided is the money is going to go toward rebuilding the fire-affected area for the businesses that are going to build again," Patrick said. "We have no criteria, but it's a little bit early."
Patrick said conversations have him in favor of publicizing a number "to tell people where we're at, so it doesn't look like we're trying to hide it."
"Even if we got $100,000 -- and I know the fund's nowhere near that -- that's a real drop in the bucket" when rebuilding costs may exceed $10 million, he said.
"That's not going to build a building … I'm thinking it would be great if some corporation would come along and say 'We'll give you a couple hundred-thousand dollars,' but we don't have those kind of factories around here anymore, and the way the economy is, it's kind of tough."
The totals from larger, ongoing or one-time fundraisers have been publicized. Purchases of "Garrettsville Strong" T-shirts have exceeded $13,000, Coll said. And the PMG Chocolatier All Star Talent Showcase at James A. Garfield High School on April 11 raised $6,400 for the fund.
Coll said none of the money will be disbursed to those affected by the fire until standards are put in place "and vetted by our attorney" to ensure the process is legal and accountable.
SMALL cleanup efforts continue, including repairing street lights and reopening parking spaces. A security fence can be moved once more debris is cleaned up, Patrick said.
Businessmen are finding places to set up shop on a temporary basis. Coll said the Barber of G-ville and New Hearing found temporary space in the former Village Hair Designers on Highland Avenue, but it has been harder for some retail victims to relocate.
Coll said one of the next big events is the Brew Feast at Main Street Grille & Brewing Co. on May 3. Food and beer from "tons of different breweries in the area" will be available, with proceeds from a silent auction benefiting the Garrettsville Strong rebuilding fund.
"It's been really great seeing the community pull together," Coll said.
The 10th annual Summerfest will return June 27-29. Rumors that it has been canceled are false, Patrick said. Classic car cruise-ins, a popular village summer pastime, also will continue.
"We hope people are coming, more and more this year than they have in the past," he said.
More information on approved fundraisers and how to help Garrettsville rebuild can be found at the Chamber website at garrettsvillearea.com/how-can-i-help.html.
Phone: 330-541-9400 ex. 5157