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A sign placed outside the Mills Locker Plant, shortly after the fire, displays the determination and will the Briards have retained during a time of sadness and hope. Photos by Paul Gregersen/FOCUS

Looking forward

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local Perham,Minnesota 56573
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Looking forward
Perham Minnesota 222 2nd Avenue SE 56573

Last week began with devastating news for Amanda and Whitman Briard, along with the New York Mills community, when a fire destroyed the Mills Locker Plant.


The landmark on the corner in Mills for over 50 years was nothing but a pile of debris by Monday morning. The cause is still unknown.

With the help of a supportive community, family and friends, the Briards have begun looking to the future with a new found sense of determination and gratitude for their loved ones and the small tight-knit town.

Within the week, they had purchased the Mid-State Auto Auction building with the goal of reopening by year's end.

"We have a lot of work to do. But it's pretty exciting," Amanda said with a sense of hope in her voice.

Their former location was the Briards' second home of sorts for their entire adult lives to this point.

They purchased the business when they were teenagers 10 years ago and have raised four young children, who they call their "M&Ms' within the walls of the building that is now just a memory.

As crews continue to clean up the charred rubble on the corner, the Briards know their future is bright.

"We can make things the way we want them," Amanda said about their new building and location.

Although they hope to reopen by 2011, the Briards aren't holding their breath.

"Our goal is November or December. But it's up in the air at this point," said Amanda. "There are lots of things to be inspected."

Now that the smoke and dust have settled, holding their breath is the last thing the Briards are interested in doing.

It's time for them to take a deep breath, roll up their sleeves and look forward to the future like they did a decade ago.

If their track record speaks for itself, they should accomplish their goals with grace, class and faith in themselves and New York Mills.

We would like to express a sincere thank you to our community and emergency departments. We could never do it without you. To our neighbors and friends for all their thoughts and prayers. To our family for everything. Most of all to our savior for keeping us safe and for not spreading the fire any further.

Words cannot express our gratitude and knowing we can move on is such a blessing.

Thank You!

Whitman and Amanda Briard, our M&Ms and the Mills Locker Plant Team