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One month later: Jefferson City businesses continue to recover from tornado

by Emily Cole, Nicole Roberts | June 23, 2019 at 5:05 a.m. | Updated June 28, 2019 at 3:33 p.m.
Avenue HQ owner Holly Stitt is seen in the background, standing amongst the debris, while being interviewed Wednesday, June 19, 2019, so she can tell the story of the damage her company's properties suffered during the May 22, 2019 tornado in Jefferson City.

As the sun rose May 23, many Jefferson City residents were seeing a different world. Following a late-night EF-3 tornado May 22 that ripped through a 3-square-mile area of the city, many businesses in the downtown area were damaged or destroyed.

As the tornado's one-month anniversary arrived, many businesses were still picking up the pieces and figuring out what the future holds. Some are already open and operating, while some await repairs and some hope to rebuild.

Despite their situations, several business owners mentioned the help they received from the Jefferson City community and many others as being a silver lining in the storm.

The following is an update from as many East Capitol Avenue and East High Street area businesses as could be reached by the News Tribune.

Avenue HQ

The tornado obliterated the second story of 623 E. Capitol Ave., home of the Avenue HQ offices, at the corner of East Capitol Avenue and Lafayette Street; a firewall is the only thing holding up the second story, owner Holly Stitt said. Portions of the roof collapsed, and the back portion of the second story is also missing.

Next door, at 621 E. Capitol Ave., the Avenue HQ venue is now a pile of rubble and the roof has fallen in.

The building at 619 E. Capitol Ave., home of Campus Coworking Space, lost its roof and has some damage inside.

Stitt said she and business partner Quentin Rice will rebuild the three buildings.

"My insurance lady said, 'This isn't about the money. This is personal.' And it is personal," said Stitt, who purchased the three buildings in 2012. "It may not be my home, but it is my home. So it will be back. That is not an option in my mind."

Stitt said they will demolish the building at 621 E. Capitol Ave., built in 1975, as it is not structurally safe. Since 621 E. Capitol Ave. is connected to 619 E. Capitol Ave., she added, she is unsure if she can save Campus Coworking Space's home.

Stitt plans to rebuild 621 E. Capitol Ave. and, if she must demolish it, 619 E. Capitol Ave. - built in 1964. The buildings will "look more fitting for the neighborhood" when she rebuilds them, she said.

"I don't know what all that means at the moment, but it will not look the way it looks now," Stitt added.

Once Stitt and Rice speak with the structural engineers, she said, they will know whether to salvage 623 E. Capitol Ave., built in 1900, or demolish the building and rebuild it to its former glory.

"My hope is that I'm going to be able to salvage most of my office building, which is the historic building," Stitt said. "We all know the second floor is pretty much gone on that, but they feel the basement is perfectly fine on it and the first floor is fairly structural. I would have to rebuild the east wall that is falling and then hopefully can rebuild the upper floor. Whether it's going to have the same brick, I don't know because that was special brick."

Stitt is unsure when she will open the three buildings.

Since they will not relocate Avenue HQ, Stitt said, the business is on a hiatus until further notice.

"To move HQ to somewhere else, it loses everything it was," Stitt said. "It was its own environment. It's not like an office where we can put this over here and it's still the same, because it's not. So I think HQ is on hiatus until we have a building again here. It was Avenue for Capitol Avenue and HQ for Holly and Quinten, and to have it somewhere else just doesn't make sense for us."

La Chica Loca

Parked in the parking lot behind Avenue HQ, at 621 E. Capitol Ave., the La Chica Loca food truck sat among the remaining rubble last week.

Owner Amanda Jensen said the tornado likely picked up the food truck and slammed it against the back wall of Avenue HQ, causing the truck, along with portions of the wall, to fall back into the parking lot.

Various parts of the food truck and equipment were destroyed, along with the food and supplies inside, Jensen said.

She said she is unsure if she will repair the food truck.

"I'm getting things checked out to see if we can fix the food truck, but I don't have those answers quite yet," she said. "My ideal situation would be to fix that because that would get me running faster than anything else."

Campus Coworking Space

Last Thursday, the roof was repaired at 609 E. High St., Campus Coworking Space's new location.

Campus Coworking Space opened at 619 E. Capitol Ave. in January, but last month's twister tore off the building's roof and damaged the inside.

"It's a complete loss over there," said Missy Creed, co-owner of Campus Coworking Space. "The roof is gone, everything inside was destroyed. We were able to salvage a few things out of the building, which is great, but really it was just a complete loss."

The building at 609 E. High St. also sustained some tornado damage to its roof, chimneys and gutters. The tornado did not damage the building's interior, Creed said.

"We love this area still, so we're just basically a block down from where we were," she said. "It was just on the top of my mind, and I knew we had to make a move fast."

Campus Coworking Space was granted early occupancy under contract, Creed said, adding she hopes to close on the building at 609 E. High St. later this month.

She plans to begin moving in and operating out of the building tomorrow.

Creed said she was thankful for those who helped clean up the old Campus Coworking Space.

"It was so incredible," she said. "There were people we didn't even know that were just coming by and gave a couple of hours of their time to carry stuff out of there and help us sift through everything."

Missouri Retailers Association

Across the street from Avenue HQ, at 618 E. Capitol Ave., the Missouri Retailers Association is waiting for contractors to begin work. The tornado tore off the roof and caused a neighboring tree to fall onto a corner of the building, tearing a portion of the office building down. One of three chimneys also collapsed during the twister.

Despite the damage, the Missouri Retailers Association plans to repair the building, association President David Overfelt said. He added the association will not rebuild the collapsed chimney, one of the few changes the association plans to make to the building.

Like many properties, the building at 618 E. Capitol Ave. also continues to sustain water damage from rain.

"If we had a drought after this tornado, I'd have less damages, but what I'm seeing now is I'm going to have to replace some walls inside, the flooring, etc.," Overfelt said. "We have tarps and everything, but the tarps can only do so much."

Overfelt said he hopes the association can operate out of the office again in four months. Until then, they have been operating out of a Lafayette Street location.

When he lived in Jefferson City in the 1980s, Overfelt said, he remembers seeing a tornado tear down trees before disappearing over the river.

"Jeff City has been lucky like that, with these smaller tornadoes and with our hills, but this (May 22 tornado) was just too big and there was nothing that was going to stop it in its path," he said.

With property owners in the area considering demolition, Overfelt said, he worries the 600 block of East Capitol Avenue will soon contain numerous vacant lots or dilapidated buildings.

Tyler M. Woods Funeral Director and The Law Offices of Stumpe & Schrimpf

Over at 611 E. Capitol Ave., crews have been repairing the roof almost every day since the tornado ripped through Jefferson City. The inside has been cleared of debris; and Tyler Woods, owner of Tyler M. Woods Funeral Director, ordered dozens of windows and replacement vehicles.

Woods had just completed a year-long renovation at the business - adding new flooring, light fixtures and landscaping - before the tornado struck. The tornado not only destroyed most of the work done during the renovation, but it also damaged the roof, several windows and five vehicles.

The tornado also destroyed a 125-year-old stained glass window, Woods said. However, the window manufacturer will use a photo of the original window to recreate it.

"We were very fortunate with that and will be able to recreate the stained glass window we lost," he said. "We found bits and pieces of the old one that we're holding on to for historical value."

Woods wants to restore the home to what it used to be, adding the new windows will "suit that style and history of the building."

He hopes to complete renovations within 90 days. Until then, the funeral home will still operate.

"We never missed a beat," said Woods, who didn't sleep for 40 hours after the tornado struck. "We've had an aggressive approach to restoring it. We're going to restore it to how it was. It's going to take a significant amount of funds, but it's what's needed to bring the property back to how it was and restore the historic value as best we can."

The Law Offices of Stumpe and Schrimpf, also located at 611 E. Capitol Ave., didn't receive much damage compared to those in the surrounding area, attorney Brian Stumpe said.

The Law Offices of Stumpe and Schrimpf are operating out of a temporary location at 1730 Elm Court while the building receives repairs.

"Compared to the other guys around us, we're so fortunate," Stumpe said.

Burkhead & Associates LLC

Due to severe structural damage, property owner Frank Burkhead said, he will demolish the Dallmeyer house at 600 E. Capitol Ave., which housed Burkhead & Associates LLC, among other offices.

The tornado removed the bricks on the east and west walls, causing the walls to shift. The south foundation shifted, and the tornado tore off the entire roof.

"With those factors, it made it unstable to be able to bring back," Burkhead said. "Unfortunately the building will have to come down."

Burkhead said he and his wife, Carol, will review options and decide what to do after demolishing 600 E. Capitol Ave., built in 1869.

"It would take a whole lot more money to be able to build back or restore what that was, that looked identical," Burkhead said. "We also have to factor in new codes and things. Everything being built back would have to be done to the new code standards, so there are a few additional things there that add to the cost.

"So there's a lot of different options that we're taking a look at to figure out what we want to do with that site and what it should look like."

The businesses in 600 E. Capitol Ave. moved to the west side of Jefferson City, Burkhead said.

Flotron & McIntosh LLC

At 612 E. Capitol Ave., the building lost the roof and several windows. It also sustained water damage, so the drywall and carpeting will need to be torn out, said Richard McIntosh, Flotron & McIntosh LLC president and CEO.

McIntosh said he plans to repair the building, including upgrading the tiles on the roof to "make the building look even better than it did before."

Three chimneys were damaged during the tornado, he added, and he will most likely not rebuild them.

McIntosh said he wants to "try and preserve some of that history as much as we can - we're committed to doing that."

He hopes the businesses can move back into the building in 45-60 days. Until then, employees are working from home.

McIntosh said one thing that "bothers" him is the city charging one-half of 1 percent of his total construction bill for a building permit. He used the example of paying $500 if the construction bill is $100,000.

"That is nothing more than a tax on tragedy," he said. "There is no other way to say that. The bill could easily run $100,000. Everyone wants to make sure I rebuild that building and restore it, which we're going to. I just don't know (if) the city needs to be charging for a building permit when none of us raised our hand and said, 'Please let a tornado hit me today.'"

Communique Inc.

Steve Veile was at home when the tornado ripped through Jefferson City in the late hours of May 22.

His house took some damage, but it wasn't until around 2:30 a.m. that he learned of the damage his business at 512 E. Capitol Ave. received, when an employee sent him a message.

Photographer Angie Davis. Cajun's Halloween Party on Oct. 31, 2014, in Little Rock.

"She sent me a picture of my office full of bricks and debris," Veile said.

Veile, CEO of public relations firm Communique Inc., said the building at 512 E. Capitol Ave. received heavy damage from the storm. The building, which Veile said was built in 1873, lost its eastern wall, exposing the interior from the first to the third floor.

However, like many business owners affected in Jefferson City, Veile is already thinking about the future. He's working with a structural engineer and architect to rebuild the wall and preserve the historic building.

Veile said the engineer determined the other brick walls in the building are still in place and salvageable.

In the meantime, his business has relocated to temporary quarters next door at 506 E. Capitol Ave. Veile said he isn't sure how long the repair work on the building will take, but he is hopeful they'll be back in by the end of their one-year lease at the temporary office.

Veile said he appreciates all of the help they have received since the storm.

"We had so many volunteers that were helping us move our stuff out some we didn't even know," he said. "We really appreciate what the community has done, not just for us but everyone along East Capitol."

Nunn & Young Appraisal Associates

According to owner Stacey Young, the building at 518 E. Capitol Ave. has extensive damage. They plan to rebuild in the same location and are currently operating out of a temporary space.

Law Offices of Jeremy L. Hodges LLC

The tornado tore the roof and air-conditioning units off 529 E. High St., which houses the Law Offices of Jeremy L. Hodges LLC. It also broke numerous windows in the building and totaled a few vehicles.

"The office (on the first floor) didn't really get much damage during the storm, but afterward, with all the rain coming down, it's already messing up the sheet rock down there on the first floor and the lighting fixtures are now full of water because it rained so much," property owner Jeremy Hodges said.

Hodges, along with his wife and children, lived in the second and third stories of 529 E. High St. and were home when the tornado struck. After Hodges' son woke him and his wife, the family quickly took cover.

"I started hearing a whistle, and we grabbed the kids," Hodges recalled. "We were going down to the second floor from the third floor when it started busting out windows out of the third floor. We got to the second floor and my oldest son had thrown everything out of the cupboard and had my two younger daughters and his girlfriend in there, so we all jumped in there and closed the doors. Then it hit, and it just looks like a tree went through the house."

The Law Offices of Jeremy L. Hodges LLC relocated to 609 Clark St.

While he hopes to rebuild the structure at 529 E. High St., Hodges said, he is not sure if it would be feasible. He is still reviewing his options and working with the insurance company and contractors.

"We got a check yesterday for, like, $3,500 to fix all of that," Hodges said last Tuesday. "It's ridiculous. So we don't know what we're going to do yet. We anticipate to remodel, but we may end up demoing and doing something different."

Tennyson's Furniture

Jefferson City staple Tennyson's Furniture, at 520 E. High St., received extensive damage.

"From the outside, it looks bad, but once you get inside, it's way worse," owner and manager Dan Miller said. "You don't have a good perspective of it from the street level. Once you get inside, it becomes pretty apparent how bad it is."

The tornado took most of the roof, allowing water to damage much of the inventory of the store.

Miller said reopening will be a long-term process, but they hope to rebuild at the same location.

"Our end goal would be to be back in business and serving our customers like we had before, but we're just going to have to wait and see right now where we're at," Miller said. "We've got a long way to go and a lot of bridges to cross."

For Miller, the response from the community has been impressive.

"The most memorable part of this whole issue has been the way that family and friends and customers just immediately started reaching out, literally hundreds of people contacted me within a day or two," he said.

Carson & Coil

Previously located on the third floor of 515 E. High St., Carson & Coil moved to the fourth floor.

When Carson & Coil President Blake Markus entered the third floor shortly after the May 22 tornado, he said it "looked like a bomb went off."

"I went down to the third floor, and there's part of Tennyson's roof in one of our old offices that came through the busted windows," he said. " Walls are partially pushed over to the side, there were 2-inch-thick wooden doors blown off their hinges. We got really, really lucky that we didn't have any office space down there anymore."

The building also houses various business offices, along with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Walking down East High Street last week, several windows were boarded up. Markus said the office also had some warped trim and baseboards, along with discolored carpet.

He said his office was "extremely lucky" as it still had working heating, ventilation and air conditioning, internet and phones. While Carson & Coil employees worked remotely for a few days following the tornado, he added, they have been able to work in the building since about May 28.

Markus is unsure when a contractor will repair the building, and he said he would "be surprised if it's done before August." Carson & Coil will also need to repair some office damage like the carpet.

Carson & Coil may have to partially relocate when contractors work on the office.

Following the tornado, Markus said, several law firms offered space or assistance.

"There were people helping out from day one, and I've never seen anything like it," Markus said. "I went down to Joplin for the relief efforts down there when (an EF-5 tornado went through Joplin on May 22, 2011) and kind of the same thing. We're lucky we didn't sustain that level of damage, but it just felt like, from day one, people were pitching in and helping to turn it around and making this a changing moment for the city. It was just fantastic."

Antiquarium Books & Collectibles

Despite receiving some damage in the form of broken windows, siding and roof damage, owner Lance Salmons has reopened Antiquarium at 504 E. High St.

He said he got the call about the damage around 2 a.m. May 23 and went to see what happened.

"It looked like a war zone down here," Salmons said.

He said no repairs have been made to his building yet, and it took a couple of weeks for him to get his phone and internet lines back up, but the power was back on within days.

Salmons had a similar experience to other business owners in the first few days after the storm.

"That Thursday and Friday, there were people everywhere passing out food and water," Salmons said. "I had people cleaning up around my building I didn't even know."

He said he has restricted use of the building, but the store is operating after reopening the Tuesday after the storm.

Businesses at 514 E. High St.

Job Corps, according to admissions counselor Rob Holman, had broken windows and the building's air conditioning units were blown off. They are operating out of the office but meeting students at other locations.

Nationwide Insurance wasn't affected as much as other businesses in the area, according to agent Andy Koenigsfeld. They reopened after a week.

Conari Escape Rooms is closed until repairs can be made to the building, according to owner James Caspari.

Whaley's Pharmacy

Company President Stacey Welling said Whaley's was lucky to receive only minimal damage to its roof and sign at the 630 E. High St. location. The business was closed for just two days.

Mid-State Vacuum Center

At 631 E. High St., Mid-State Vacuum Center had some damage to windows and front doors, as well as to the chimney and roof. One of the owners, Joe Holpkamp, said they are waiting for contractors to make repairs.

A property Holpkamp owns at 700 E. High St. also needed roof repairs.

"It missed us by about half a block," Holpkamp said.

Meyer Frame Shop & Galleries

At 626 E. High St., Meyer Frame Shop & Galleries had some damage to an overhang and the roof. Owner Greg Meyer is hoping to repair the building, which was built in 1900.

Meyer, who lives above his shop, said he was home during the storm.

"I heard the train, and stuff starting hitting the back windows," Meyer said. "I thought I'd better go get my cat and get in the closet."

Meyer was also affected by flooding in 1993. He said he's lucky he didn't receive any more damage.

Norm the Barber and Kidd Barber

Owner and barber Norm Luebbert said the main issue at 614 E. High St. was a loss of power for two days.

"It wasn't a problem because there was enough damage around us that we didn't need to be open anyways," Luebbert said.

He said he believes the larger buildings around him may have sheltered his small building from further damage.

Missouri Alliance for Children and Families

At 211 Marshall St., three walls will need to be replaced, as well as the roof and some windows.

Wallstreet Insurance Group owns the building and rents it to Missouri Alliance for Children and Families, which continued to operate out of it following the tornado.

Contractors have already begun construction work at the building, said Lee Wilbers, president of Wallstreet Insurance Group. He hopes to complete most of the construction by August.

Repairing the roof will take a little longer, he said.

The roof originally contained solar panels, but those were destroyed in the tornado. Wallstreet Insurance Group has not decided whether to replace the solar panels, Wilbers said.

"They were up there in grids, and that's what slammed into the sides of the building and helped buckle the walls of the building," he said.

Hanrahan & Nacy, at 522 E. Capitol Ave.; Missouri Property Appraisal, at 525 E. High St.; and High Street Laundromat, at 600 E. High St., did not return the News Tribune's requests for comment.

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