Aurora Street reopens to traffic


March 10, 2018

Larry Holcombe/Daily Globe

A TRUCK travels down Aurora Street in Ironwood Friday as workers continue to demolish the remains of two buildings destroyed in a Feb. 21 fire. Friday was the first day the street reopened to vehicle traffic since the fire.


Ironwood - A sense of normalcy is beginning to return to downtown Ironwood, as Aurora Street re-opened Friday and news came that two of the businesses closed since the Feb. 21 fire would be re-opening soon.

Aurora Street had been closed since the early morning fire that left three dead. The fire destroyed the multi-story structure at 102 E. Aurora that housed Chelsi's Corner boutique on the street level and two floors of apartments above it, as well as the unoccupied building next door at 104 Aurora St.

The investigation into the fire and its cause continues, Ironwood Public Safety Director Greg Klecker said Wednesday.

"It is still open, it will remain open and (the cause) is undetermined still," Klecker said.

He previously said the fire was deemed suspicious and the investigation into the incident was ongoing until it is determined whether criminal charges are merited.

The fencing that had prevented motorists from using a section of Aurora Street was moved closer to the debris remaining from the fire after workers with Fahrner Excavating tore down portions of the remaining walls standing after the fire to make the scene safer.

With its former location destroyed in the fire, Chelsi's Corner announced Friday it would be temporarily re-locating to Bethany Ann Hellen Studios until it can move into the former Book World location at 112 E. Aurora St.

"What we're doing is, we're going to move into Bethany Ann Hellen Studios next weekend - on the corner there where you can see the two windows, so I'll have mannequins up there," Chelsi's Corner owner Mark Schwanz said.

He said the store will operate on the weekends, when the studio doesn't have dance classes.

The plan is to open March 16, with store hours of 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sundays.

While the Book World space is probably two and a half times bigger than the former location, Schwanz said the old building had a lot of room behind the retail space.

"It was deceiving. Our retail was all upfront and then we had a full commercial kitchen behind and then we had another big room and then another room - that building went, as you know, all the way back to Brewster's," he said. "So there's a lot of (storage space) there, whereas Book World doesn't."

He expects to subdivide the new location, not only to create necessary back-room storage, but give the store the property atmosphere.

"I'm going to warm it up," Schwanz said. "I want it to be warm, because it's still a boutique."

He is hoping to close on the building May 1, with a tentative opening date of mid-May.

The weeks since the fire have been a roller-coaster of emotions for Schwanz; who not only lost the business he and his wife operated, but also the three people he knew who died in the fire.

"Everybody lost (in the fire.) The city of Ironwood lost, men lost their lives ... three businesses were lost. Nobody wins, but you've got to stay strong, you've got to keep working and you've got to move forward - that's what we're doing," he said.

One of the things he and his wife miss most are the customers.

"The ladies, the customers, we miss immensely. We saw a lot of them at (the Historic Ironwood Theatre during last week's) First Friday," Schwanz said. "A lot of them came in, many of them crying - so there's a lot emotion."

The outpouring of assistance since the fire shows the sense of community in the area, according to Schwanz - who grew up in Dallas - and is something you don't see in bigger cities.

Along with the news Chelsi's Corner would be re-opening soon, demolition has progressed to where Contrast Coffee - which is adjacent to the east of the two destroyed structures - can open today for the first time since the fire.

"We've had lots of people - people coming in, and driving by, and looking in and hoping that we're open," Contrast manager Becky Bogaczyk said Friday. "We're still closed; we've got a little prep work, but we'll be ready at 7 a.m."

She said the coffee shop had been hoping to open for the First Friday on March 2 but that weren't able to due to the presence of debris next door. Instead, Bogaczyk said they served coffee in the lobby of the theater and collected donations for those impacted by the fire.

Due to the timing of the decision to open, Bogaczyk said there wouldn't be a full bakery menu for the first day.

"We will have our scones and our muffins, and that is about it," she said.

The full menu should become available going forward, Bogaczyk said on Friday.


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