FORT WAYNE – They began pulling into the lot intermittently throughout Tuesday afternoon.
The curious and inquisitive would swing their cars or trucks into a spot facing the wreckage, throw it into park and idle for three or four minutes watching the firefighters and remodeling workers sift through debris or snap photos.
The blaze that destroyed a liquor store, a bar and hair salon in the Marketplace of Canterbury nearly spread to the Piere’s Entertainment Center earlier that morning.
And despite smoke and water damage to one of several bars that comprise Piere’s, the main nightclub is expected to be open Thursday for a concert by the heavy metal band Drowning Pool.
Mitchell’s Sports Bar and Grill, the Cap n’ Cork liquor store and the Canterbury Styling Salon, all just off the portico extending from the front of Piere’s, weren’t so lucky.
Firefighters were called to the shopping center in the 5600 block of Saint Joe Center Road at 5:08 a.m. when employees of a nursing home and a Dunkin’ Donuts called emergency dispatch after seeing flames come from the roof of Cap n’ Cork.
Todd Smith, owner of Mitchell’s, heard that firefighters were responding to the area on a morning newscast. He hopped in his car and raced to the complex.
“By the time I got to Reed Road, I could see the flames,” said Smith, who added that he was planning to sell the bar in the near future.
A preliminary investigation pegged Mitchell’s kitchen as the starting point of the fire, but Fort Wayne Fire Chief Amy Biggs cautioned that that is still “up in the air.”
There were no injuries, and no estimate of the damage was immediately available. The fire department has not officially ruled on what caused the fire.
“When it rains, it pours,” said Smith, a longtime business partner of Stan Liddell, the owner of Piere’s and the man who reshaped the Marketplace of Canterbury into what it is today.
Liddell died last month.
Additional firefighters were needed to keep the blaze from extending past the portico and into Piere’s, according to fire department officials. “Club V,” inside the complex, sustained heavy fire and smoke damage, according to a fire department report.
Fire department, city neighborhood code and county building department officials later decided to allow Piere’s to remain open for the scheduled concert Thursday night, Biggs said.
“Our crews worked swiftly and significantly,” Biggs said. “The fact that they were able to stop the fire from getting into Piere’s is amazing.”
The three businesses hardest hit in the blaze were condemned and were in the process of being demolished. It took several hours to restore power to unaffected businesses in the shopping center, Biggs said.
“We’re thankful nobody was hurt,” said Andy Lebamoff, owner of Cap n’ Cork, which has more than a dozen other locations. “It was a good store and served Canterbury well. Hopefully they’ll rebuild and we can get another store there.”
Biggs credited the employees of the nursing home and Dunkin’ Donuts – the latter of which she said “took good care of our guys” – with the quick thinking and wherewithal to call 911.
“Having traffic in that area that early is not something you’d normally see,” she said.