Fairfax buildings destroyed by fire, business owner at a loss

A structure fire in downtown Fairfax Sunday morning left three buildings destroyed and one business owner at a loss.
Published: Oct. 2, 2022 at 8:57 PM CDT
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FAIRFAX, Minn. (KEYC) - Early Sunday morning, the Fairfax Fire Department responded to a structure fire in the downtown area.

The department reports that the three affected buildings were all a total loss.

Fairfax was assisted by ten other agencies, including eight fire departments, the Renville County Sheriff’s Office and the Central Region Cooperative.

Nancy Jo Gohnert is the owner of the Smokey Hollow Cafe, one of the buildings lost in the fire.

The cafe is the only complete business loss, as the other two units were empty.

“I’ll miss my customers so I gotta get going and do something because I miss them too much,” said Jo Gohnert.

Jo Gohnert spent the day trying to salvage what she could from the building, and she said that there’s a difficult path ahead, but that she isn’t dissuaded.

“There’s nothing left, that’s for sure, said Jo Gohnert. “It’s completely destroyed. So I just say, find me a building, a griddle and a pot of coffee and I’ll be open.”

Jo Gohnert was met with concerned friends and community members at the scene, all trying to comfort her in the difficult time.

She said that the Fairfax community is like her family, and that it will take a lot more than this to keep them from helping one another.

“It took a village to get this thing going in the first place five years ago, and it’s going to take a village to keep it going, and I know I have no doubt that this town will be behind me and support me, said Jo Gohnert. “And not financially, I’m not saying that they have to, I’m saying just supporting me with their kindness and I know that’s going to happen.”

The Fairfax Police Department said that the cause of the fire that destroyed the nearly 150-year-old structure is still under investigation.