EDITOR’S NOTE: Sixteen tornadoes smashed through our community on Memorial Day 2019. Since that day, the Dayton Daily News has been on the ground reporting on the devastation and the work of recovery. Now, one year later, we are digging into the obstacles that remain, how the coronavirus pandemic has affected rebuilding and how communities have been changed forever. Go here for more of this coverage.
Business owners across the region affected by the Memorial Day 2019 tornadoes hoped to come back bigger and better, but many of them now face the murky new reality of a crippled economy and risk of contagious disease.
That includes Scene75 — the family entertainment site wasn’t just rebuilding from the Memorial Day 2019 tornadoes, it was going to unveil this year spring a two-story carousel, indoor spin coaster and an additional event space.
But now the opening date for the Butler Twp. business is likely pushed back to August due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s been a year,” co-owner Les Sandler said. “It’s going to be a neat facility.”
With what’s happening, Sandler hasn’t been in a great rush to open.
“I wouldn’t want to be open at this moment,” he said. “Soon, hopefully. But it’s not clear how soon that will be.”
When Scene75 does reopen, it will be with myriad new public health requirements. The indoor facility has an arcade, bounce park, restaurant, banquet center, batting cages, and other rides and games.
“There will be certainly an attention to the cleaning aspects,” Sandler said.
Oberer’s Flowers in Old North Dayton was having a new water line installed on a recent weekday for an expanded warehouse and production facility they decided to build after the storms damaged the business in Old North Dayton.
“From the storm we bounced back pretty well, and now to be hit with this — it’s like one shot after another that we have to recover from,” Oberer’s co-owner Keith Fields said.
Three auto dealers along North Dixie (Keowee, Pete’s, Magnum) have rebuilt, said Cathi Spaugy, Harrison Twp. development director. A Speedway and Donato’s Pizza have both rebuilt and reopened on North Main. Next to the Donato’s, an auto dealership has submitted plans to rebuild.
“It’s slow, but we are making progress with a lot of the businesses,” she said.
A few businesses are still struggling with their insurance companies, Spaugy said, and some may never rebuild.
“Some of them were uninsured and that’s a bigger mountain to climb,” she said.
Restaurant Depot was one of the biggest commercial properties to rebuild in Harrison Twp. The company was set to open a new building about the time the tornadoes hit. It tore down the damaged structure and built over.
Restaurant Depot’s new building sits empty. Calls to its corporate offices in Chicago weren’t returned.
“They would have been celebrating a year coming up in June and now they’re going to be opening in June,” Spaugy said. “They’ve taken a hit from both sides — from the tornado, obviously, and then from the pandemic.”
With the promise of hiring 50-75 employees, Spaugy said the township is appreciative of Restaurant Depot’s resilience and commitment to rebuild in the same location.
“They could have said after the tornado, ‘Look, this isn’t worth it to us.’ But they didn’t,” she said. “We are very happy that they did and we look forward to them getting open.”
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