Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
Two months after fire, businesses find temporary homes
Former Greiner Building occupants adapt to their circumstances
WASHINGTON — On Nov. 12, emergency responders and Washington residents gathered around the Greiner Building, where flames were visibly protruding through the rooftop. Within hours, it was clear that the former library building would be out of commission for some time.
Business owners had to find new locations to do their work.
For the location’s titular Greiner Buildings Inc., employees found themselves working in the Sitler Suite a block up the road within a month. Still, CEO Matt Greiner said the fire was a major blow not just financially, but emotionally.
“It’s not only because a building we have put our heart and souls into making as perfect as we possibly could has been damaged,” he said. “Insurance companies want you to do a bunch of work for them to send them documents, so now you take an already-busy schedule and you make it even busier … that lets exhaustion set in, if you’re not careful. And then that makes the emotional side even a little bit tougher.”
Still, Greiner said he had plenty to be thankful for. No injuries were reported from the fire, and while a server full of company data was destroyed, it was backed up off-site.
He said the business would ideally move back in at the same spot, but plans are still in the air.
“Of course that’s what we’re hoping for, but there’s still a lot of work to be done before we’re going to know 100%, for sure, exactly what direction we’re going,” Greiner said. “There’s a lot of processes that take place behind the scenes with insurance companies and the state.”
The majority of businesses displaced by the fire have moved into the ground floor of Federation Bank, renting out space very recently vacated by the company’s move to a new location. Most said the space was a temporary solution, as they wait to hear the long-term fate of the Greiner Building.
The Goldfinch Solar Project was among those. Organized by out-of-state companies Bechtel and Conifer Power, the office was affiliated with a proposed solar facility north of Ainsworth.
Conifer Power Vice President of Development Chad Little said the Washington office was used primarily for meetings, while other paperwork could carry on outside the county.
“We like to meet with our stakeholders or other land owners … we want to be as accessible as we can, and having a local space in the community allows us that access,” he said. “From our perspective, the only thing it did was move our location.”
The Washington County Riverboat Foundation (WCRF) lost its office in the fire as well, which was connected to the Washington Economic Development Group (WEDG) space. WCRF Executive Director Patty Koller said the nonprofit planned to move into Federation Bank as well, but that she had been working from home in the meantime.
While the nonprofit lost some of its historical records to water damage during the emergency response, Koller said everyday documents were backed up digitally. The transition from one medium to another, however, proved challenging.
“Before, I would just go to my filing cabinet and pull out a paper document that I knew I had, and I knew where it was,” she said. “They’re also there digitally, so it’s just taking me a little more time to get used to it that way.”
The fire happened less than a week before the Riverboat Foundation’s annual award night. The event’s novelty-sized checks were sitting on Koller’s desk the afternoon of the fire, but she happened to have her laptop at home with her, which helped keep plans on track.
“It was not easy, but it was very important to me that we had that event,” she said.
Blissed Out Wellness and affiliated company, Lunar Transitions, now provide their meditations, massages and yoga in the former bank’s lobby and offices.
Lunar Transitions Owner Tammy Howard said the space had a different energy, but still served its purpose.
“The ambience isn’t quite the same,” she said. “But when doing yoga, how deep a person can go within themselves will depend on the practice. The space isn’t quite as important as what the person is bringing to their yoga practice.”
Blissed out Wellness Owner Melissa Turner said much of the material in the old studio was irreversibly damaged by smoke and water, but a few items — including one massage table, some crystal bowls, tapestries and a gong — survived.
While Turner and Howard have worked hard to make their new location feel the same as their last, the business owners said it was impossible to replicate perfectly, like moving from a house into a hotel.
“The whole space was not built and made specifically for us, which, the other one was,” Turner said. “And this is perfect for what we need right now, but it was a bank.”