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by Kendrick Blackwood, Journal-World Writer

The owners of downtown businesses singed by Wednesday's fire celebrated the little victories Thursday.

"Yay!" cheered Au Marche co-owner Lora Duguid about 1:30pm when power was restored to her store, 19 W. Ninth.

Duguid and others were grateful only one building, a little-used warehouse, was a total loss. There were also grateful no one was seriously injured in the fire and for the many people who stopped to lend comfort and encouragement.

"I'll watch your children. I'll wash your clothes," said Amy Laughlin, owner of Second Chance Children's Clothing, 15 W. Ninth, of the offers she received. "It's incredible. I can't even put words to it."

Customers of WheatFields Bakery, 904 Vermont, already have complained of withdrawal symptoms. "They wont be able to have their bread and patries," Magerl said.

The 4:00pm fire that gutted the warehouse behind WheatFields and damaged eight businesses can be blamed on a plastic bucket of cigarette butts behind the restaurant, fire officials said Thursday.

Wind helped ignite the butts, bucket and a shed filled with wood for the bakery's oven. From there, it spread to the warehouse.

Fire Marshal Rich Barr said there are no regulations that apply to cigarette buckets or there placement. The resulting blaze kept firefighters -- all those who were on duty -- busy for 90 minutes before the fire was brought under control. Finishing the job took several hours.

Fire Chief Jim McSwain said a complete damage estimate could be weeks away.

Of the nearby businesses, WheatFields was the worst hit. Black soot marks a line six feet from the floor in the kitchen area. A phone and a portable stereo had melted into themselves from the heat.

The red brick oven with its heavy metal doors and minimal electrical parts might be the only item inside the bakery unaffected. "It's such a medieval masterpiece," Magerl said of the oven. "It has shown no damage anywhere."

Magerl said guesses of when WheatFields would reopen ranged from four to eight weeks.

By noon Thursday, Magerl had two trash bins parked outside and had found a warehouse in North Lawrence where he will store and clean his restaurant's equipment.


Fire snuffs out bakery sales

By Mark Fagan, Journal-World Business Writer

A fire that ripped through a downtown building is snuffing out bakery business in a restaurants, stores and a cafeteria across town.

WheatFields Bakery, 904 Vermont, will be closed for four to eight weeks after smoke soaked the downtown store Wednesday evening, said Chuck Magerl, a managing partner in the business.

The blaze hit a small portion of hte bakery and destroyed a storage building used by Weaver's Department Store, 901 Massachusetts.

Another six businesses outside the fire's range still managed to get scorched by the fire indirectly.

Two grocery stores -- Hy-Vee and Community Merchantile -- sell WheatFields bread, and Free State Brewing Company, Pachamama's and Milton's serve some of the bakery's rolls, buns and pastries. Even Kansas University's Kansas Union orders items from WheatFields.

All now must do without until the wood-fired oven once again is burning.

We're working as feverishly as we can to return everything we can to a state of normalcy," said Magerl, who is also an owner of Free State. The brewery relies of WheatFields for focaccia, baguettes and other specialty breads.

For now, Free State will turn to M & M Bakery in North Lawrence for many of the restaurant's baking needs, Magerl said, but the real focus is on getting WheatFields back in business. The bakery and café had sales of more than $1 million last year.


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