Whole Darn Thing plans to bounce back

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The fire that gutted the Market Street establishments of Neon Moon and Whole Darn Thing Sub Shop left one man dead on the frigid morning of Feb. 8.

Katrina Tulloch/THE CAMPUS

Meadville City Fire Department was dispatched at 3:28 a.m and Meadville City Fire Chief Tunie Hedrick called the fire under control approximately at 5:30 a.m.

Hedrick confirmed that William Gerritsen, 55, died in the fire in his second floor apartment. The actual cause of the fire remains unknown but the origin of the fire started in Gerritsen’s apartment, according to Hedrick.

“[Gerritsen] had a high toxic level of carbon monoxide,” Hedrick said.

One firefighter from Meadville was taken to the hospital for smoke inhalation, but has since been released and is doing well.

“[The firefighters] looked like ice monsters,” said Christine Jordan, owner of the Whole Darn Thing Sub Shop. “They crinkled when they walked because water was frozen on them.”

The burned Whole Darn Thing building will be demolished. Structural engineers declared the current establishment unsafe to renovate on Wednesday afternoon.

“We will try our best to come back full force,” said Jordan. “It’s gonna take some time.”

Jordan plans to reconstruct a brand new building on that site. In the meantime, she hopes to temporarily relocate somewhere in the downtown area to maintain accessibility.

“It’ll be on a smaller scale until our building can be rebuilt,” Jordan said. “A new building will probably take months to reconstruct and accommodate. We’re hoping for the best cost.”

The American Red Cross just moved out of the Kepler Building, where Whole Darn Thing was originally housed, so Jordan is now looking at the space as a temporary place of business.

Richard Riordan, a Parkhurst Dining employee, is the brother of Linda Narpes, owner of Neon Moon bar and the apartments above the bar.

“So far she’s doing alright,” said Riordan. “She took it rough. It took a lot out of Meadville downtown because the building was over a hundred years old.”

“It was a landmark, basically, lost,” he added.

Narpes does have insurance and is waiting to find out the next step for her establishment from her insurance company, according to Riordan.

“They all got along,” Riordan said, about the relationship between Neon Moon and Whole Darn Thing Sub Shop.

“To be real honest with you, it doesn’t break my heart that the bar was lost,” Jordan said. “It was such a nuisance. We’ve had so many problems with the clientele. We had one of our windows broken when some drunk person put his hand through it.”

Hedrick called for second and third alarms in Crawford County. Six fire departments responded along with Meadville Area Ambulance, Meadville Auxiliary Police and fire department volunteers.

“It was an especially cold night,” Hedrick said. “We just seemed to have a little bit more handlines freezing up. To say the least, it was really, really intense.”

Market Master Alice Sjolander opened the Market House at 5:30 a.m. on Tuesday morning.

“Everybody was pretty much congregated here to stay warm,” said Sjolander. “I never saw so many fire engines. They were just dumping water on that fire and it just would not go out.”

The Creative Crust, The Pampered Palate, Meadville Market House, Tim Horton’s and private citizens did what they could to provide support to the tenants and firefighters.

“We got doughnuts, muffins, coffee, hot chocolate, croissants and Creative Crust brought pizza to the station,” Hedrick said. “It was a really great outpouring of help.”

Sjolander said that, although the fire was an unfortunate incident, it was clear that everybody in this town pulls together when disaster strikes.

“Everyone was helping each other out,” Sjolander said. “That’s community. That’s Meadville.”
Vice President of “I <3 Meadville” Warren Chapline, ’13, hopes the college will respond as well.
“I hope to have a reaction from the student body and to educate people about the importance of family businesses,” said Chapline.

Whole Darn Thing Sub Shop was a First Friday participant in Allegheny College’s “Make It Meadville” program.

“If students show they care about the community, we’ll get a lot more respect,” Chapline said.
Jordan wants Whole Darn Thing Sub Shop to bounce back both for the town and the college.

“Allegheny is very close to us,” Jordan said. “We’ve always laughed that if we could start a meal plan for Allegheny students, we’d be millionaires. We’re very grateful to have you not only as a customer base but as friends.”