Seven stores destroyed in fire

Seven of eight stores in one building of the Northdale Shopping Center
were destroyed by fire the early morning hours of Nov. 26, 1966, a
Friday.

by Peter Bodley
Managing editor

Seven of eight stores in one building of the Northdale Shopping Center were destroyed by fire the early morning hours of Nov. 26, 1966, a Friday.

Only the northern-most store in the building, Jensen’s Super Valu was saved by firefighters, suffering only smoke and limited water damage. It was back in business within a month.

Hanson’s Drug, Northdale Department Store, Ben Franklin, Gamble’s, Fashion Beauty Salon, Lynn-Mar Realty and a barber shop were completely destroyed.

The fire call came into the Coon Rapids Fire Department at 4:30 a.m. from two bakers who were working at Jensen’s and spotted smoke coming into the back part of the store.

Firefighters reported they could see flames coming through the roof of the building as they left Fire Station 2, which was then located only a couple of blocks north of the shopping center.

More than 50 firefighters from the Coon Rapids, Anoka and Fridley fire departments fought the blaze for six hours before it was brought under control.

According to the Coon Rapids Herald report of the fire in its Friday, Dec. 2, 1966 issue, E. George Minder, owner of the shopping center, estimated the loss from the fire to be near $1 million.

Coon Rapids Fire Chief Harold Bartholow was quoted in the paper as stating that the fire is believed to have started in the vicinity of the furnace area near the Gamble’s store.

The flames spread to the drug store on the south, then backtracked through several fire walls in the other businesses on the north side of Gamble’s.

According to the Herald report, most of the stores were stocked heavily with Christmas merchandise and the decorations, plus oil, paint and products in aerosol cans, fueled the flames making it difficult for firefighters to bring the fire under control.

Dense smoke filled the area also made it hard for firefighters to get at the blaze, so did steam coming off the roof of the structure and a 10 mph wind.

Bartholow brought in heavy equipment to make six holes in various points of the rear of the center, then a huge crane arrived during the day to lift the heavy roof beams out of the way to allow firefighters to spray water on isolated areas where the fire seemed to rekindle.

Minder developed Northdale Shopping Center in 1958 on an 18-acre site with stores opening in 1959.

Following the fire, Minder immediately began plans to reconstruct the center, which is still in business today, including Jensen’s.

Peter Bodley is at peter.bodley@ecm-inc.com

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