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Food Garage owner hopes to rebuild

Shelby Lindrud / Tribune The exterior walls of the Food Garage in Lake Lillian stand Monday morning as firefighters work at the scene. The cause of the fire that destroyed the restaurant is under investigation.

LAKE LILLIAN — The smoke from the fire early Monday morning at the Food Garage restaurant in Lake Lillian was first noticed by a resident in a nearby house. By the time firefighters left the scene later in the day, the building, first constructed in 1923, was gone. All that remains standing are two side walls.

"Everything was completely burned," said owner Dennis Jacobson.

The tin roof and the back wall of the building collapsed during the fire, while the fire marshal asked for the front of the Food Garage, facing Lakeview Street, to be torn down for safety reasons, Jacobson said.

What caused the blaze is still under investigation by the fire marshal.

Nine fire departments were called to the scene, providing much needed manpower and water.

"They put in one heck of a day of work," Jacobson said, thanking the Lake Lillian, Atwater, Raymond, Prinsburg, Cosmos, Blomkest, Willmar, Kandiyohi and Bird Island departments, along with Lake Lillian Ambulance and the Kandiyohi County Rescue Squad, for their efforts. The Kandiyohi County Sheriff's Office and the Minnesota State Patrol also helped with traffic control.

"I thank everyone that was there," said Lake Lillian Fire Chief Ross Wittman.

Wittman said there were firefighters on scene for over 12 hours.

"We cleared out about 4 p.m.," Wittman said, though he and a few other firefighters went back around 5:30 p.m. Monday to take care of areas that were still smoking.

Removing the tin from the ceiling allowed firefighters to get into the building and take care of any fire still burning underneath it. As of Tuesday morning, the site was completely extinguished, Wittman said.

Wittman does not have an exact count on how many firefighters were on scene during the worst of the fire, but estimates there were close to a hundred people.

"Everyone had two or three trucks there. There were a lot of people," Wittman said.

Jacobson has insurance on the building. While it is way too early to say for certain, Jacobson would like to rebuild and reopen his restaurant.

The Food Garage would have celebrated its seventh anniversary on Oct. 31. As the name implies, the restaurant used to be an actual Ford dealership and garage, along with an auto body garage and a marketing business. Jacobson purchased the building in 2009 and transformed it into the popular Lake Lillian eatery.

Jacobson said the past seven years have been successful, with the business providing catering services, holding parties and cooking meals for their day-to-day customers. In the summer, the Food Garage also benefited from lake traffic. On a part-time basis, there were about 16 to 17 people covering shifts at the restaurant, Jacobson said.

Wittman said the Food Garage will be missed, even if it is only temporary.

"It brought a lot of business into town," Wittman said.

In the few days since the fire, Jacobson said there has been a lot of support for his staff and customers. He hopes to one day continue to be a part of the community.

"In my mind I'd love to rebuild. I love the community and what I did there," Jacobson said.