June 20, 2024

Cocoabar21 Clinton

Truly Business

‘I don’t know what to do,’ says business owner after massive fire destroys 40 customer pianos

2 min read

GRAND RAPIDS, MI — Jeff Waffle sat on the pavement with his hands over his head, in anguish, as he watched firefighters continue a long battle to extinguish flames at his business, Grand Rapids Piano.

There was no hope for the business he started five years ago.

And no hope for the estimated 40-45 pianos, some valued at more than $30,000, kept in storage at the Batt Street SW warehouse.

“They were Stienway, Yamaha and family owned pianos,” he said. “None of them belonged to me.”

The fire — starting in a vehicle repair business inside the same warehouse facility containing Grand Rapids Piano — sent thick black smoke into the sky. The smoke could be seen for miles.

Wyoming firefighters called for help from the Grand Rapids Fire Department and other area departments.

Waffle was distraught over the loss as watched in near disbelief Monday, March 22. The fire began about 1:30 p.m. and firefighters expected to be on the scene into the evening hours.

The intensity of the blaze caught a neighboring house on fire. No one was hurt, but the house was believed to be a total loss.

Grand Rapids Piano was among four tenants inside the same structure, including at least one vehicle repair business.

While Waffle’s business is insured, he said he didn’t know how he would tell the piano owners.

“Some of them are family heirlooms that I promised I would take care of,” he said. “There are going to be some really rough conversations.”

Waffle does piano storage, moving, refinishing and repair on pianos and pool tables. The service includes restringing and tuning. He estimated there were 40-45 pianos and 25 pool tables in storage.

“I don’t really know what to do,” he said.

Waffle said he started his business about five years ago “with $200 and an aluminum ramp.” He built it up into a thriving business with a handful of part-time employees.

Waffle was working at his business with another person when a mechanic from another tenant came around the side of the building and asked for a fire extinguisher.

“I grabbed the fire extinguisher and ran around there and tried to put the fire out,” he said. “There was gas dripping from underneath the vehicle.”

Waffle said his extinguisher ran out of retardant.

“Within seconds, it just burst into flames, the whole building,” he said.

Waffle said he lost everything in the fire. He was able to escape the building with his dog and one folder of materials.

Wyoming Fire Chief Brian Bennett said firefighters arrived on scene to find the warehouse fully involved with flames. He said strong winds helped spread the fire to the nearby home.

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