Disaster Strikes Twice at the ZCBJ Building

In the early hours of July 23rd, 2014, a passerby noticed smoke and flames coming from the Chrome Horse Saloon & Slop House, a restaurant housed in the over 100-year-old ZCBJ building in downtown Cedar Rapids. The fire department responded quickly, but it was too late. Due to the intensity of the fire, by the time it was extinguished the building had suffered large amounts of smoke and fire damage, making it uninhabitable. The cause of the fire: spontaneous combustion of the restaurant’s greasy rags and towels in the middle of the night. (You can see how suddenly the fire started here.)

After the fire, the owners of the Chrome Horse understandably chose not to return to the building. The new owners decided that they would take on the monumental task of renovating and restoring this historic structure, with an eye towards leasing it out to local businesses again when the restoration was complete.

Two years and a lot of hard work later, the first floor of the building was finally rented out by the owners of Brewhemia: Brad and Matt Danielson and Steve and Andrew Shriver. Brewhemia is a family-owned bar and café that provides everything from coffee to beer (including a sort-of combination of the two, nitro coffee!) while embracing New Bohemian culture.

However, less than 2 months after Brewhemia opened its doors, disaster struck again. The building had to be evacuated due to the flooding that was taking over downtown Cedar Rapids in late September of this year. All of their equipment and furniture was moved to an off-site location, and quite a bit of sandbagging was done to minimize any damage that might occur. Thankfully, the flood did not manage to infiltrate their café, and they were able to start moving equipment back (with a little help from some of our Rapids employees!) as soon as the water levels started to go down.

And so the ZCBJ building managed to weather another storm, though not without a lot of effort from its tenants. This just goes to show that, although you can never be completely prepared for a disaster, having the time to prepare can definitely help reduce some of the burden.

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