From the Phoenix Files – Discount Tire

The death of George Floyd on Memorial Day sparked nationwide peaceful protests and localized violent rioting in many areas of the county, including the North Central Region cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul, Minnesota. Even now – more than 2 months after order was restored in these Twin Cities, the devastation to local businesses remains widespread, persistent, and painful to see.

On a recent damage assessment trip to the Midway area of Saint Paul, NFSA staff members witnessed neighborhood businesses that had previously been longstanding, thriving, community cornerstones reduced to blackened piles of rubble, boarded up storefronts, or charred shells awaiting an uncertain future.

The burnt-out buildings were a graphic illustration of the devastating violence of both uncontrolled mobs and uncontrolled fire, and a poignant warning to even the most careful business owners whose buildings are not protected by automatic fire sprinklers.

But like the fabled Phoenix bird of ancient mythology, new life and vigor rises from the ashes, and one store in particular stood out as a bright, clean, active, and prospering landmark on University Avenue!

In the heart of all this destruction, the damage assessment team found this remarkable success story – a vibrant oasis of prosperity on an avenue of shattered buildings…. Discount Tire Store on West University Avenue in Saint Paul. The store was open, busy with customers, and thriving! This business was protected by an automatic fire sprinkler system installed and serviced by Olsen Fire (part of the Viking/API Group). That sprinkler system made all the difference on the night of May 28, 2020.

On the evening of May 28, as rioting proceeded down University Avenue, an unknown perpetrator or perpetrators broke into one of the automotive bays at the tire store and lit a cart of shop rags on fire between two cars occupying the service bay. Because of the potential fire load due to the tires, the sprinkler system was an ESFR system with a fire pump behind it. The fire was contained by a single sprinkler. Because of active rioting, the sprinkler system was not shut down until the following morning – about 12 hours after the fire. The fire damage was limited to the two vehicles in the bay, and water damage was almost nil due to the utilitarian nature of the service bays. The store was closed for five days due to ongoing rioting and the need to complete cleanups and repairs (mainly glass damage to windows and doors). Total damage to the building: $30,000-$40,000 (predominantly window/door repairs).

The sprinkler system did not just save the building. 25 employees work at the store, and none were laid off or out of work. The building and contents were valued at $2.7 million, and the store generates more than $3 million in annual sales revenue. The store also pays nearly $85,000 in annual property taxes.

The sign in the store lobby says it all, “Providing Peace of Mind.” That refers to the stores tires, but the sentiment could well have been referring to Olsen Fire and the installed automatic fire sprinkler system!