The complex, once a thriving venue for small businesses, is a total loss. "I want someone to wake me up and say, 'it was all a dream.' It's a nightmare," says Linda Brown, owner of GirlFriends Boutique.
Business owners like Brown stood by and watched as years of hard work and thousands of dollars in merchandise went up in smoke. "It is definitely a devastating thing that has happened because everything I have is now up in flames," says Mike Kishline, owner of The Rug Gallery of Newburgh.
In the early hours of "Small Business Saturday," the owners of nine Newburgh businesses watched helplessly as each owner's pride and joy turned to ashes.
"We were all geared up for Small Business Saturday -- today -- and obviously that's not going to happen," says Kishline, whose store was packed with the most inventory its ever had. He estimates he lost around one million dollars. Brown's boutique was also filled with the most new merchandise the store had ever held in preparation for the small business holiday shopping event.
Sixty fire fighters from five different departments worked for several hours until the three-alarm fire was finally under control. Most of the businesses were new -- they had opened their doors to eager customers within the past few years. "The community had been so supportive of all of us opening up and I was just so proud to be proud of Newburgh. It's surreal. I can't even wrap my head around it yet," says Brown.
But even as they watched the last of their businesses reduced to ashes, the two entrepreneurs would not let the flames touch their hope for the future. With one arm wrapped around each other, and flames hissing in the background, the pair vowed to rebuild. Kishline said, "We have have built thriving businesses and we will come back bigger and nicer and..." "And in Newburgh," finished Brown. "I want to stay in Newburgh. I love Newburgh."
In a matter of hours, the flames destroyed the business owners' most prized possessions, but they will not destroy the desire to rebuild what once thrived.
Investigators believe a piece of equipment in the central part of the building caused the fire. The Indiana State Fire Marshal's office is handling the investigation.