Rising from the ashes: Businesses shut down by fire in Perham are forging new futures

The investigation continues five months after fire shut down four businesses right before Christmas in Perham's business district. Two were destroyed, smoke damage shut down two others.

Burned wreckage still sits untouched 5 months after a fire leveled Suds Tavern and Make Me Wine. Debris removal can't start until each insurance company completes an investigation. (Carter Jones/ FOCUS)

The investigation continues five months after fire shut down four businesses right before Christmas in Perham's business district. Two were destroyed, smoke damage shut down two others.

The State Fire Marshal could not determine a cause for the Dec. 23rd fire that leveled Suds Tavern and Make Me Wine. The report, filed by lead investigator Toby McLain, states the fire originated in the kitchen of Suds, but the roof collapse and "near complete combustion of combustible material, prohibited identification of the circumstances that came together to allow the fire to occur to an acceptable level of certainty."

While the state has made its final determination, each insurance company is still conducting their own independent investigation.

Mary Roberts, owner of Make Me Wine, said investigators will be on site in early May to search for a root cause. Debris removal will begin immediately after the case is closed.

Pat Honer, owner of Suds Tavern, says his insurance company determined the prep cooler ignited the blaze. Honer said after digging through the wreckage, they recovered a harddrive from his security cameras. He says the footage appears to show the fire starting next to the cooler that was serviced the previous day.


Honer still plans on rebuilding Suds Tavern in its original location, but is currently occupied in opening "Suds 2.0." The temporary bar is located in the basement of P.S. I Love You and Coldwell Banker on Main Street.

Honer said he plans on opening in May but isn't sure exactly when yet.

The new location is much larger than the old Suds and features a horseshoe-shaped bar.

"This is way too big, way too big," Honer said of the space. "I don't know for sure if it will work in my favor or not."

Honer said he's not a fan of a basement and wants a bar with a tall ceiling to hang stuff on the walls. Nevertheless, he still has faith he can make it look good.

Suds fans waiting for a total rebuild will have to be patient.

"The old spot is going to be a slow process," Honer said.

Luckily the foundation and walls are structurally sound, so once all the debris is cleared out it will be ready for a new floor.


Honer is planning on doing all the work himself without hiring any contractors.

"I didn't have the insurance money for that," he said of the rebuild that could cost over $700,000.

Make Me Wine

Make Me Wine is now open in a temporary location in the Head Quarters Salon in New York Mills.

Roberts said she's happy to be back in a retail location after spending all winter constantly making deliveries in a 100 mile radius.

"Customers kept on finding me," she said.

Roberts is still exploring her options for a permanent location, but is leaning towards staying in New York Mills because it's only six miles from her home.

Even with all the trouble, Roberts said she smiles getting to work every morning knowing she'll reunite with her loyal customers.


"They're happy to have us back, and we're happy to see everyone," she said.

Level iii, Masterpiece Vapors

Level iii and Masterpiece Vapors are also on their way to opening after smoke damage forced each store to gut everything.

"It's a hurry up and wait thing, and I'm not really good with the waiting," said Level iii Owner Andrea Greiff. That being said, the waiting is almost over as Level iii plans to reopen sometime in May.

Greiff called the whole process an "interesting mess" because "there's no key to the puzzle," when dealing with insurance companies.

A hole in the brick near the rafters allowed smoke to billow into the building and settle into the ceiling. "The smell is pretty much gone," she said. However, the furnace needs to be replaced.

"We're taking the opportunity to do some things that we maybe would've done if we owned the building in the first place, but you couldn't do when it wasn't your money," she said.

Now the white walls have been replaced by the building's original brick, new lighting and other aesthetic upgrades also spruce up the shopping experience.


"We're gonna be bigger and better than ever," Greiff said.

Jen Hoban, owner of Masterpiece Vapors, said it's sad to see the old store go, but she's excited to bring it back to its original roots.

Hoban can't say exactly when the store will be ready, but is hoping to open by Memorial Day.

Suds Tavern Owner Pat Honer stands in "Suds 2.0" in the basement of P.S. I love You on last Thursday. Honer expects to be open sometime in May. (Carter Jones/ Focus)

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