Niche door

Omaha firefighters assist two men with securing the front door of Niche, a business nearby where the three-alarm fire at the M's Pub building near 11th and Howard Streets.

Some business owners rousted by the Old Market fire at 11th and Howard Streets have begun the taxing process of starting over. Others don’t even know where to begin.

At Niche, a furniture store just west of the Market House restaurant, owner Rich Anderson has been waiting for more information about what might be salvageable from his store. He said he hasn’t been able to get into the store for more than 20 minutes since the fire except for a brief visit to grab his cash drawer.

“Although I have insurance, I still have to be able to get into my bay to see what I can keep and sell and not,” Anderson said. The business has operated in the space for 21 years. Anderson also owns Trini’s restaurant in the Old Market Passageway.

“My perspective is from three or four or five different angles,” Anderson said. “I’m a business owner that lost everything for 21 years. I’m a business owner trying to keep as normal as possible because (Trini’s) is directly across the street from M’s Pub.

“On one hand, I’m furious and can’t get inside to see what I have left of my retail store; then I’m trying to get my other business open and keep it normal for my employees and my own sanity and absolutely financially.”

Anderson said he has talked with his insurance agent but hasn’t been allowed into the building to inspect what is left of his store. The insurance company, State Farm, has taken over the investigation of the damage in the building that houses Niche; the city is no longer involved. State Farm had no comment.

There has been no timeline given on when Anderson and others might be able to get back in or when rebuilding might happen. Dehumidifying hoses are being use to dry out the building, including condominiums upstairs.

The lack of information has been frustrating, Anderson said. He and some employees were able to get into his retail bay after the Fire Department knocked down both doors during the fire but before the space was secured.

While waiting, he is juggling incoming freight orders that have nowhere to go, running Trini’s, planning a trip to a furniture show this weekend in Las Vegas and figuring out how to contact clients who have paid for furniture that is sitting in his flooded basement.

“I’m not saying my loss is any greater, but everyone is in a completely different situation,” he said. “I’m kind of a one-man show.”

Jay Davis, superintendent of the City of Omaha’s Planning Department, said insurance adjusters have begun work on the building that holds the Market House and Niche, which is immediately west of the building that housed Nouvelle Eve and M’s Pub.

Insurance adjusters are “trying to get it dried down. As soon as they can get that done, they’re going to let them back in,” he said.

His attention has been on the M’s Pub building, which the Planning Department said is not structurally sound. The Omaha Fire Department determined Thursday the fire was accidental and caused by a damaged gas line feeding M’s Pub.

Nouvelle Eve owner Susie Keuck said her insurance agent has told her the store was a total loss and advised her to begin making a list of personal items and merchandise that were in the store.

“I know everybody’s anxious to get back in there, but I think they just have to stop and think about safety first,” she said. “It is hard to have your belongings so close but yet so far.”

Though her insurance agent encouraged her to relocate and reopen in the meantime, she’s not so sure. She has set up a home office.

“I could have gone anywhere, and I chose 11th and Howard for a reason,” she said. “We’ve been there for 43 years. It’s historic, it’s iconic. So I just kind of have to wait and see.”

After a Wednesday meeting with the Mercers, who own the damaged buildings, she said she’s confident they will rebuild and that they want Nouvelle Eve and M’s Pub to be a part of it.

“Just hearing from Mark Mercer and the people in the office that they want us back is a good thing. We didn’t talk about relocating in the meantime. That’s just something I have to figure out on my own.”

Meanwhile, Market House owner Nick Bartholomew has begun the process of cleaning up the restaurant, which was damaged by water. Bartholomew said he has begun throwing away spoiled food and cleaning up the basement, which was soaked.

He said he hopes reconstruction begins soon. He is interested in reopening the restaurant in the same space, but won’t reopen elsewhere in the meantime.

“Picking up the pieces,” he said. “Salvage is coming up next.” The building may need to be taken “down to the studs” to ensure there are no health concerns.

“Once it’s back in a habitable condition, Market House will start building again,” he said.

World-Herald staff writer Steve Jordon contributed to this report.

Contact the writer: 402-444-1414, paige.yowell@owh.com

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