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Studio, auto shop reopen

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A month after fire destroyed a Franklin building, all three displaced businesses are open again.

Fire investigators are still determining what caused the fire that burned down 191 Commerce Drive on Jan. 6. Cold weather, rain and snow continue to hamper the investigation.

The three shops that were located in the building — Miller Chemical Tech, D&H Cheer Co. Fierce Allstars and Doug’s Franklin Auto Care Center — are joining with other businesses or looking for a new home in the city.

They’re getting help from other local businesses that have agreed to share space or help raise money.

Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay pledged $10,000 to help Fierce Allstars buy new equipment and support the special needs cheer classes the gym runs. With Irsay’s donation, the business has raised about $30,000. Fundraising will continue because new spring floors, trampolines and renovations will cost about $38,000 when the business moves to a new location at 172 Commerce Drive, owner Crystal Dyer said.

Doug’s Franklin Auto Care Center is open and sharing space with HBM Automotive at 3585 Eastview Drive, owner Doug Wright said. Miller Chemical Tech and its three employees are working out of another company location in Indianapolis while searching for office space in Franklin, office manager Patti McCullough said.

Franklin fire investigators have been able to thoroughly search only about 50 percent of the building because poor weather

has continually delayed the investigation, fire department spokesman Brad Epperson said. Since the fire investigator is working with an insurance investigator, the two also have had trouble coordinating their schedules to meet and work together, he said. With more snow and frigid temperatures in the forecast this week, the investigation could drag on for several more weeks.

No preliminary cause has been determined, but investigators have not found anything to suggest the fire was arson, Epperson said.

The businesses can’t go into the building to try to salvage or remove any items, and insurance companies won’t reimburse damages until the investigation is done.

If their former building is rebuilt, none of the businesses plans to return.

Fierce Allstars’ teams have continued to cheer in competitions since being displaced by the fire, including a national competition in Indianapolis in mid-January. Another Franklin gym, Hollywood Cheer and Tumble on Earlywood Drive, offered to share space with Fierce Allstars. Even though their teams compete against each other, the partnership has allowed the kids to continue to practice, Dyer said.

“The sportsmanship between both gyms has been wonderful. Because we are so close and we do compete against Hollywood, it’s kind of like throwing IU and Purdue into the same gym. We have practices that go on at the same time, so our kids are able to cheer them on during their routine and vice versa,” she said.

Doug’s Franklin Auto Care Center is sharing space now, but Wright’s business likely will settle in permanently with their new partners, he said. HBM Automotive’s owner works as a surgeon and works on cars part time, so having his shop in the garage will allow it to run as a full-time service center, Wright said.

“He just opened up in December. I got word through a friend of mine that he was wanting to talk to me. I never met the guy before in my life; but we met, I found out he was a good Christian guy, and we cut a deal to join up,” he said.

The auto center’s phone just got reconnected at the new location late last week, and before then business dropped dramatically because people weren’t able to contact him. Previously anyone who called the number for the shop would hear it ringing, but it was just going to the burned-out building, Wright said. He estimated he lost about $40,000 in business because he couldn’t open.

Franklin firefighters did allow him to get some hand tools out of his old location, but he still hasn’t been able to get vehicle lifts or other equipment. HBM Automotive has some similar equipment, such as machines to check vehicle alignment, so he’s again capable of doing any type of job needed by customers, he said.

“We’re all set up. There’s no job that we were doing over there that we can’t handle over here now,” he said. “All the pricing stays the same and all the service, too.”

Miller Chemical Tech is looking for a new space in Franklin, but McCullough said they could have a new office set up soon. The three employees were able to get back to work within a few days of the fire at the Indianapolis office, and customers didn’t have any disruption in placing orders or getting shipments delivered, she said. The company lost all of its computers and office equipment in the fire but had off-site data backup. So no records or information was lost, she said.

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