Uptown Minneapolis reaches out after condo fire

  • Article by: ROSE FRENCH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 1, 2013 - 8:36 PM

With free meals and fundraising, a nearby restaurant is leading the effort to help those who lost everything in blaze.

Brian Harvey lost every photo and video he possessed of his three young daughters. Irreplaceable images of the girls performing at piano recitals, school plays, soccer games -- all burned to ash in the massive blaze last week that destroyed the condominium building where Harvey lived in Uptown Minneapolis.

What's helped him and other residents get through the dark days since the fire has been the kindness of Jenna and Alex Victoria, owners of the Amore Victoria restaurant close to the burned-out building near the intersection of Lake Street and Humboldt Avenue S.

For the next week or so, the Victorias will continue to offer victims of the fire free meals at the restaurant. Next Wednesday, they'll host a fundraiser at the restaurant featuring a silent auction, with all proceeds going toward fire victims. They are collecting clothes, toiletries, gift cards and other necessities for the 20 or so people trying to rebuild their lives after the fire.

"We feel like we're a part of this community," said Jenna Victoria. "And being so close to that particular building made it feel that much more real. It really made us feel like we have to do it. We're all neighbors here. We knew many of them; they're our customers. And it's just something you do in a time of need.

"Being in the position we're in, a restaurant and public place, we're able to do that ... organize and hold something here in their benefit."

From recreation to wreckage

Harvey, 39, is a frequent patron of Amore Victoria, stopping by up to three times a week to eat a meal, have a drink at the bar, share brunch with his family. He had been a resident of the three-story, eight-unit condo building for almost two years before the blaze, which ripped through the nearly 100-year-old building on Friday. Authorities believe unattended candles caused the fire.

At the time of the blaze, Harvey was in Florida at Disney World, vacationing with his daughters. As soon as he got word of the fire via phone calls from friends, he cut his vacation short to come back to view the damage. There was absolutely nothing left.

Irreplaceable mementoes

Harvey says his furniture and most other items he lost in the fire are replaceable. What hurt was losing the photos and videos of his daughters. He also had collected ticket stubs from every concert, sporting event or movie he'd been to since he was 15 years old. An avid Cubs baseball fan, Harvey also lost his collection of baseball caps and other memorabilia.

The Victorias' efforts to help Harvey and others has made his loss a bit more bearable. Besides Amore Victoria, other neighborhood businesses are helping out, including the nearby Dunn Bros and Bruegger's Bagels, which are accepting donations for people who lost everything, Harvey says.

"It's not just the business owners but the neighbors in this neighborhood have gone out to the businesses they frequent and say, 'Hey, there's a neighborhood in need.' They've been soliciting donations on our behalf."

"It's overwhelming. ... Just to see it flow in. It's like a big warm hug. It's a good feeling."

For now, Harvey says he's staying with a friend and sleeping on his couch. He says renter's insurance should cover much of his loss.

"I lost all of my tangibles. It's stuff. Nobody died in the building. None of the firefighters were seriously hurt. I lost stuff. And stuff will come around again."

Rose French • 612-673-4352

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