Owner of Babbitt Junction plans to rebuild after fire

by Nick Wognum

A devastating fire burned a Babbitt landmark early Monday morning. A fire at the Babbitt Junction bar and restaurant was reported just before 5 a.m. and firefighters battled the blaze for several hours but the building was a total loss.<BR><BR>Owner Gary Burow said he received a call from the Midway dispatcher Monday morning. “They called me at eight minutes to five, I got there at 10 after six and it was gone,” said Burow, who lives in Makinen.<BR><BR>The building, originally the Babbitt Legion, had been constructed with a tarred flat roof. After a metal roof was put on and developed leaks, a rubber coating was added, providing plenty of fuel for a fire that reportedly started in the electrical system.<BR><BR>“The fire department managed to get a few jerseys out of my office which they took out and brought to me,” said Burow. “One of things they brought was my dad’s flag from his casket and that had a special meaning to me. I used to fly it on special occasions.” <BR><BR>The office, located in the southwest corner of the building, was the only part that had anything recognizable left in it. With smoke still coming out of the ruins, a battery operated clock in the office was still ticking. Just a few feet away a copier appeared to be melted on one side.<BR><BR>Burow purchased the building in the summer of 2001 and did some extensive remodeling since the building had been shuttered for a few years. <BR><BR>“It’s been a tough couple of days,” Burow said Wednesday night. “Just all the time that was spent remodeling and getting it done. A lot of memories. And to watch elderly people come up now and take a picture, there were so many memories for a lot of people.” <BR><BR>The restaurant is located at the junction of highways 21 and 70, just west of the Hideaway bar and restaurant which burned four years ago and was rebuilt in 2000. <BR><BR>“We’re still processing the information with the adjusters,” said Burow. “I don’t know what the timetable is for everything to be done. I would like to look at being under a roof by this fall, work on it over the winter and get it open next spring but there’s a lot of ifs that go with that.”<BR><BR>Burow said he was concerned for the 13 employees who were put out of work by the fire and the catering business the Junction had developed. <BR><BR>“The first thing I thought of were the employees and the second was the catering business. I’ve been contacting all the people we had lined up for catering jobs. Now we just have to go through the process of everything that has to be done and take it one day at a time,” said Burow.<BR><BR>But the plan is to rebuild, albeit with some changes for a new structure.<BR><BR>“It’s a good location and I think the area has a bright future coming and we want to be part of it. That’s why we opened the Junction, the location. I envision a brighter and more compact building in the future,” said Burow.<BR><BR>Hearing from customers from as far away as the Twin Cities has been one of the bright spots for Burow.<BR><BR>“I’ve had people with cabins on Birch and White Iron call me at home with words of encouragement,” said Burow. “It touched a lot of people”<BR><BR>