HURLEY - A spectacular 4:50 p.m. Thursday blaze destroyed a Hurley Silver Street supper club and resulted in heavy smoke that could be smelled as far away as the Kmart store off U.S. 2 in Ironwood.
Hurley firefighters battled the thick, black smoke at Wishbones restaurant that caused the closure of traffic on Silver Street. Winds from the west blew the smoke right down the main street toward Ironwood and affected businesses on both sides of Hurley's main street.
"It's like a mushroom cloud," Joe Kravetz, of Ironwood, said as the smoke erupted high into the sky around 6 p.m.
There was apparently no one in the stone-framed building when the fire began.
A bystander at the scene said the owners of the building, Charles and Mimi Moncher, were in Chicago and had been contacted about the fire.
Tammy DeFelice said she had pulled over on a side street and noticed what appeared to be steam or light smoke coming from the second floor of the supper club. She said she could smell smoke and called 911 and in less than 10 minutes, heavy smoke was billowing from the building.
"It went fast," she said.
Many Gogebic Range residents remember that the supper club was operated by Serafino "Suds" and Naomi (Connie) Willard, when it was called Connie's.
It was sold around 1992 and Moncher first called it the Silver Dragon, specializing in Chinese food, before featuring chicken as Wishbones.
Friends of the Monchers said the business had not been open this week.
Steve Karasti, of Hurley, who watched the fire from across the street at the Iron Nugget restaurant, recalled that he had proposed to his wife, Joy, at Connie's around two decades ago. "This is tough to take," he said.
DeFelice estimated the firefighters arrived about eight minutes after her 4:51 p.m. call.
The restaurant building is at the end of the 400 block, with the Krash Inn tavern to the west. Patrons of the tavern were evacuated immediately and firefighters were attempting to save the tavern later in the evening.
The smoke blew directly toward the accounting office of Dave Traczyk, across the street to the east of the restaurant.
People coming out of taverns two blocks down from the fire said they could smell the fire.
The temperature was about 7 degrees and the wind produced a wind chill reading well below zero as the fire was being tackled.
The restaurant has a colorful history.
Suds Morichetti and his wife, Madeleine (Kozup Capone), were good friends of former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson.
Thompson was once feted at a banquet at the supper club, which hosted numerous large gatherings over the years.
Suds Morichetti died in 2000 at age 82.
Madeleine Morichetti was previously married to Ralph Capone, Al Capone's brother.
Suds and Madeleine were involved in the Iron County Republican Party for many years.