Fundraiser at restaurants to help Uptown fire survivor

  • Article by: MATT MCKINNEY , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 21, 2011 - 11:30 PM

Alex Franzen lost his friend and his home in Sept. 14 blaze. Burger Jones will give him part of its Saturday sales.

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A Sept. 14 fire at 3317 Bryant Av. S. killed James Beck, 28. His roommate, Alex Franzen, survived. Both worked at Burger Jones, which is holding a fundraiser to help Franzen with losses and hospital bills.

Photo: Paul Barrett , Special to the Star Tribune

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A week after a devastating fire killed Uptown resident James "Jay" Beck IV, his friends and co-workers plan to hold a fundraiser on Saturday to help his roommate, who was hospitalized for several days and lost his belongings in the blaze.

To be held at the Burger Jones restaurants in Uptown and Burnsville, the fundraiser will commit 10 percent of the day's sales to Alex Franzen, who survived the Sept. 14 fire that killed Beck, 28. The roommates and friends both worked at Burger Jones.

Beck had worked for the Outback Steakhouse and Granite City Food & Brewery before coming to Burger Jones nearly three years ago, "the day we opened," said John Emerson, the manager of the Uptown Burger Jones restaurant.

"He was very outgoing, very cheerful," he said of the waiter. "He could be very mischievous. He was a poster boy for us. Anything we asked of him, he did with a smile."

Emerson said the restaurant temporarily shut down the day of the fire to give employees time to deal with the shock of Beck's death. Employees from other restaurants owned by Parasole Restaurant Holdings filled in when the burger joint reopened later that day.

Beck loved to build and ride bicycles, and would ride his bike to work even in the middle of winter, said Emerson.

Franzen holds a second job as a mechanic at the Re-Cycle bike shop on Hennepin Avenue S. The shop's Facebook page urged customers to attend Saturday's fundraiser.

An investigation of the three-alarm fire at 3317 Bryant Av. S. determined Wednesday that it began on the second-floor porch of the Minneapolis duplex. Investigators could not determine the cause of the fire, according to Assistant Chief Cherie Penn.

The fire broke out shortly after 5 a.m., quickly consuming the upper floor of the two-and-a-half-story duplex, according to witnesses. Firefighters walked into the blazing structure to pull Beck, Franzen and a friend of theirs out of the second-floor apartment. Beck, badly burned, succumbed to his injuries later that day.

Franzen was hospitalized but has since been released. Their friend was not seriously injured and did not require hospitalization, according to fire department officials.

The duplex was destroyed as a result of the fire and had to be demolished.

Matt McKinney • 612-217-1747

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