SUN PRAIRIE (WKOW) — The deadly explosion in Sun Prairie leveled buildings downtown, destroying numerous small businesses in seconds.
A handful had to move out of the downtown area, some closing up, others desperately looked for a safe, new home to reopen.
Renee Von Klopp, who owns Razor Sharp Screen Printing with her husband, lost everything in their shop and the building itself.
“I could just see the flames coming out of what would have been our front windows. And I called my husband and I said, ‘it’s gone’,” she told 27 News.
Razor Sharp was connected to the Barr House, which was ground zero for the explosion.
“We literally woke up the day after the explosion and we’re like, we don’t have jobs. What do we do? Do we just call it quits and walk away? Or do we just kind of, you know, say, okay, we just got to start over and make this happen,” Von Klopp said.
Glass Nickel Pizza directly across the street met the same fate.
“We were expecting to go back to work (after we evacuated for the gas leak),” said owner Adam Bougie. “We were kind of waiting for the OK for us to be able to just kind of go back in the building, when the building blew up and then the gas man started on fire.”
It took three months for Bougie’s team to find a new spot away from downtown and reopen again.
Von Klopp said her vendors and customers were so understanding and helpful that they were able to work temporarily out of their home for a while, until they found a new spot downtown, still on Main Street.
Razor Sharp reopened in January to more business than ever.
“We’ve had so much more walk in traffic than we ever had before,” Von Klopp said. “Now we’re seeing dozens of people every day coming through, which is fantastic.”
Both business owners credit the community support for making it possible to return.
“The outpouring that I received, everybody from the area, received after the explosion, made it even more obvious to me how much not only I was a part of the community, but how important the community was,” Bougie said.
Bougie hopes to rebuild downtown in the spot where Glass Nickel once stood.
The businesses are both marking the anniversary in their own way. Razor Sharp created a “Sun Prairie Strong” T-shirt to raise money for a memorial to Cory Barr. They’ve sold 350 to people from the community and all over the area.
Glass Nickel was planning to feed firefighters before the anniversary ceremony and donated a quarter of all sales on Wednesday.