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Loveland businesses 'bigger and better' a year after fire

Posted at 1:03 AM, Aug 24, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-24 01:03:45-04

LOVELAND, Ohio -- More than a year after a devastating electrical fire reduced a well-loved stretch of historic Loveland to cinders, business owners prepared Thursday night for an event they hoped would help it rise from the ashes: The Loveland Strong Street Fest, scheduled to run Sept. 14-16.

"We had a blank canvas," said Mark Wiehe, who co-owns one of the buildings damaged by the May 28, 2017 fire. He replaced an empty space with a bar and apartments with hotel suites, choosing to look at the loss through a positive lens: "An opportunity to bring the building up."

That optimism was hard for Tano Williams to find, at first. The electrical fire gutted his restaurant -- also called Tano -- and forced a remodeling that's cost millions and tested the strength of his will. In a way, it might have been easier to leave the bistro where it lay and find somewhere else to open up shop, but he was too tied to the space and the surrounding community to seriously consider it.

"It might be an emotional decision, but how do you walk away from something you've put so much time into?" he said.

He's excited now, he said, for future customers to see the renovated space and rooftop bar.

Even businesses that were not directly damaged by the fire still suffered from the overall loss of traffic to the area, said Jeanne Duke, the owner of a craft store nearby.

"I think Cincinnati thought all of Loveland burned down," she said. "I have been jumping through hoops trying to get people to realize, ‘Hey, we're still here.'"

She hopes the Loveland Strong Street Fest will help her just as much as it helps people like Wiehe and Williams. 

Events scheduled for the weekend include fireworks, live music, a ceremony honoring the work of first responders and a triathlon paying tribute to that most beneficent of all cryptids, the Loveland Frogman. Duke said it's all about celebrating the community Loveland business owners have helped create -- and then create again.

"Please plan to help us make them feel the love as they felt over a year ago," the Loveland Chamber of Commerce's listing for the event said.