Updated: 05/17/2014 10:53 PM
Created: 05/17/2014 6:58 PM WDIO.com
By: Travis Dill
Neighbors in Knife River broke a sweat to help clean up the remnants of the fire damaged Russ Kendall's Smoke House on Saturday. The owners were thankful and said it will get the store open sooner than they expected.
Most of the family business went up in flames last Sunday leaving the owners without a livelihood.
“You can't sleep, you're up all night, you don't feel right when you're here, you can't even put a sentence together from start to back. We're traumatized, both the wife and I,” Gordon Olson said.
Olson said the fire was ruled accidental, but even with insurance the family does not have much money to rebuild. The business has served tourists and locals for nearly a century, and over 20 residents pitched in on Saturday to salvage what is left.
“It's just such a wonderful feeling and the sense of community I never even realized that was there. Gifting financially and gifting their time and the sweat equity to try to help us get back in and back running,” Olson said.
Volunteers said the smokehouse was tied to the commercial fishing heritage of Knife River and the business is a symbol of of the small town on Superior's North Shore.
“I think we all recognize that, to many people, Knife River is Kendall's and Kendall's is Knife River,” Paul von Goertz said.
Everyone pulled together to help out a friend and a neighbor, but the volunteers said it was not completely selfless.
“A little bit of selfishness on our part. We want some good smoked fish this summer and this is where we get it so a little bit of motive there,” Carol Ojard Carlson said.
Olson said the storefront was saved from the flames, but volunteers got dirty cleaning up lingering smoke damage.
“It's extremely labor intensive, and without this volunteer help I just don't know what I'd do,” Olson said.
He did not have a timeline but hoped to reopen the store soon while smoking fish at another facility. He said that was something he couldn't imagine after the fire, and it wouldn't have happened without a helping hand from his neighbors.
“It gives me hope,” Olson said.
The neighbors have also set up a benefit fund to help the owners with rebuilding expenses. Donations can be made with the Two Harbors Federal Credit Union at 218-834-2266.
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