Kelly’s Saloon on Main Street caught fire during the afternoon of July 29. According to the Democrat & Chronicle, firefighters from Avon, Mount Morris and Livonia all helped douse the flames. Still, the fire destroyed the historic bar and the apartments above it. Philosophy major junior Cam Horvath and physics major senior Zach Hallenbeck were living in the apartments at the time of the fire.
“I started going to the kitchen and I heard some crackling,” Hallenbeck said. “I looked out the backdoor window and saw the back porch … was on fire.”
“I was at my friend’s house because it was 95 degrees that day and he had air conditioning,” Horvath said. “The first text I got was like, ‘Haha, our back porch is on fire.’”
The fire also damaged adjacent businesses to Kelly’s. Honeygirl Gourmet and Touch of Grayce are currently closed because of fire damage. Many people, including Hallenbeck and Horvath, didn’t realize the severity of the fire until after it was extinguished.
“I didn’t think it was going to be a big deal,” Hallenbeck said. “I thought it was going to get put out pretty quickly. So I didn’t grab anything … it just got worse and spread more.”
Despite the irreparable damage, everyone around the fire has to move forward. Building owner Steve Burnett said in a Democrat & Chronicle interview that he intends to rebuild the structure.
For Horvath, moving forward started immediately. “That’s one of those shitty things that happens,” he said. “There’s nothing you can really do but start over and just go for it.”
Several GoFundMe pages were made by Geneseo students to help rebuild Kelly’s and to help Hallenbeck and Horvath replace their possessions. The school also let the two stay in the Saratoga Townhouses for a few nights. Horvath said the response was “completely unexpected and amazing.”
“We’d like to say thank you to everyone,” Hallenbeck said. “A lot of people reached out saying, ‘Oh, I have these things, do you want them?’ … Which was really nice.”
The process of rebuilding Kelly’s has not started. The windows are still boarded up. According to Hallenbeck and Horvath, an investigation into the cause of the fire may have delayed the process.
Although initial reports indicated that an electrical short circuit started the fire, Hallenbeck believes that an “investigator’s opinion conflicted with that and that’s why they still haven’t told us anything really about it or let us back in or demolished it.”
Although the future may be unclear for Burnett and others affected by the fire, Hallenbeck and Horvath remain positive. The two said that there are lessons to be learned from the incident.
“Get renter’s insurance,” Hallenbeck said. “That’s the moral of the story.”