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Fire Destroys Russ Kendall's Smoke House, Owner Reacts

Updated: 05/12/2014 6:21 PM
Created: 05/12/2014 4:37 PM WDIO.com
By: Travis Dill
tdill@wdio.com

The owner of an iconic North Shore smokehouse was still in shock Monday as he surveyed the destruction of the family business.

Flames burned down much of Russ Kendall's Smoke House Sunday morning. There were no injuries in the fire, but Co-owner Gordon Olson said a little piece of Knife River was lost in the blaze.

“It's absolutely devastating. Not only did I, my wife and my son lose our living and way to put food on the table, but we lost part of our culture,” Olson said.

He said the smoke house has been serving tourists and locals for nearly a century. Fire crews stopped the flames before they reached the storefront, but extensive damage to the smokehouse will close the business.

Olson said his son hoped to continue the business into the family's fifth generation so they spent about $90,000 to upgrade equipment in the last year. He said that makes the rubble left behind all the more tragic.

“I was just really happy with how the business operated. Everything operated so smoothly. The product that we were turning out, I was very proud of it,” Olson said. “All the facility was remodeled on the inside and brand new freezers and that kind of thing and it was just a horrible loss.”

The Two Harbors Fire Department has not determined what caused the fire, and the investigation continues. Olson isn't sure how his family will move forward.

“Looking into insurance issues, what's covered, what's not covered or if we have any coverage at all,” Olson said.

He was thankful for the support of loyal customers and said the smokehouse will rise from the ashes.

“I hope that I'll be up and running as quickly as possible to not lose those people that have supported us through those many, many years,” Olson said.

Olson said he may lean on the community for help, but he wanted to find direction for the business first. Until then everyone will miss out on a unique taste of the North Shore.

A benefit fund has been set up to help the owners overcome the fire damages. Donations can be made with the Two Harbors Federal Credit Union.

Olson said other smokehouse owners around Lake Superior have also reached out to support him. He may use their facilities on off-days to keep his own customers supplied with fish.

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