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Abel’s looks to rebuild after fire
It wasn’t considered a historic building, but many considered the demolition of it a historic event. The Abel’s gas station, also known as Riverview Abel’s, was torn down last Wednesday. The busiest gas station in town caught fire about a month ago and the remnants of the fire remained with a charred structure barely standing.
Jim Redhage, president of Abel’s Oil Company in Louisiana, said the building just couldn’t be saved.
“It was kind of the feeling we had all along,” said Redhage.
It took a demolition crew about two hours to complete the project. Now that there is an obvious clearing, many have wondered what the new store will look like. Redhage gave a glimpse of the future and said he hopes the new store will be state of the art.
“It’ll have a better layout, bigger restrooms and be able to accommodate more people,” said Redhage.
The fire started in a fuse box and spread quickly, damaging the roof very heavily and all products inside. Nobody was injured in the blaze and Redhage says the total estimated damage is not known yet.
The only fortunate part of the ordeal is that the tanks underground weren’t damaged in any way. In fact, when reconstruction begins, Redhage says they will not move any tanks and simply use the ones they had. The biggest challenge so far seems to be the wiring system underneath.
“There is quite a bit of wiring underground that we have to go through. It will take some time,” said Redhage.
Ambitiously, Abel’s plans to have the new store up and running in six weeks. Redhage says he believes in thinking positively about the future, even though six weeks is probably not a realistic goal.
“It may be a bit ambitious, but you have to set goals,” said Redhage.
Meanwhile, the other two stores, one on Georgia Street west of town and the other along Highway 79, will remain open 24 hours a day. Redhage says the support from the public has been good at the other stores, but the profits aren’t there right now without their jewel.
“People still support us, but we don’t have the exposure we once had from the out-of-towners,” said Redhage.
The reasoning behind the other two locations staying open was to help employees. Redhage said the company couldn’t find any reason why they should lay off their employees, possibly compounding the problem more. So, they have spread the employees out over the stores in Louisiana and Bowling Green.
One decision that was easy for the company was to rebuild in the same location. Offering service to everybody from Illinois coming across the bridge and allowing local residents to visit the largest gas station in town was always the biggest draw.
“It’s always been a good location for us,” said Redhage.