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'It was just devastating to see:' Family-owned Grafton auto shop destroyed by fire

Posted at 5:27 PM, Nov 20, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-20 18:27:54-05

GRAFTON — An iconic business in downtown Grafton left in shambles, after an early morning fire Wednesday.

Flames started in the attic and tore through "Heinz and Sons 57 Auto Body." The exact cause of the fire is still under investigation.

"It was just smoke and fire," said co-owner Richard Rieck. "It was just devastating to see."

Brothers, Richard and Robert Rieck, took over the business from their father, Heinz, in 1987. The auto shop has stood at the corner of Wisconsin and Beech Street for nearly 60 years now.

"It's all we've known our whole life," Rieck said. "We've been coming to the shop since we were five-years-old to see our dad at work. We started working here at 13."

Somehow, the American flag just outside a blown-out second floor window was untouched by the fire. So was a family treasure from inside, showing Heinz, who served in World War II, and six of his sons who served in Vietnam.

A box of military medals Heinz earned, was also salvaged. They believe it's a sign from their dad.

"To carry on the body shop name for our dad always meant so much to me and my brother," Rieck said. "I know he's watching over us. I just hope he's not too sad seeing this."

It's clear by the number of people stopping to help or hug, that "Heinz and Sons 57 Auto Body" means a lot to Grafton.

The building is not a total loss. The brothers vow to clean-up quickly for their waiting list of customers. They hope to keep working on cars in a back area of the building that is less damaged.

Richard and Robert Rieck are are also wrestling coaches at Grafton High School. They're very active in the community and are both set to receive the "Outstanding Citizen Award from Grafton's Chamber of Commerce this weekend.