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Small businesses determined to survive after fire wipes out community kitchen in Oak Creek

Posted at 5:18 PM, Jun 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-23 18:18:52-04

OAK CREEK, Wis. — The day after a fire tore through the Common Cookhouse in Oak Creek, some of the small business owners who work there found comfort in each other.

"I always say that something is big for the making, especially for so many good people that worked here," Thomas Green told his peers.

The fire started around 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday. It spread so fast firefighters had to move their efforts outside of the building.

Arnie Gonzales was inside. He owns Trouble Maker's Cocina. Gonzales said the first fire alarm that went off was not inside the kitchen but in the front of the building.

"Heard crackling coming from the ceiling, when I looked up I started seeing smoke," Gonzales said. "We all got out of the building but it happens so fast.

Common Cookhouse served as a hub for many businesses by providing a kitchen, prep space, equipment, and storage. All of that was wiped out.

"I think I cried for six hours straight last night. I've never experienced anything like this in my life," said Katy Klinnert, owner of Katy's Cooking Tonight.

Klinnert and Thomas Green, who runs Mr. Green's BBQ, joined Common Cookhouse when it first launched during the pandemic.

"We're praying that we can pivot. It hurts right now with a lot of things that we lost, but the most important thing is we're still alive," Green said.

Green had to cancel jobs they booked and refund thousands of dollars since he lost the base kitchen to the fire.

While times are tough, so is this family of business owners.

"For us, it means that we have to be creative," Green said.

"We'll take it a day at a time," said Gonzales.

"We just have to keep going. Maybe that's the spirit of an entrepreneur," Klinnert said.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

Several of the businesses are fundraising to make up for the loss while not knowing when insurance will kick in and help. Visit the Common Cookhouse Facebook page to learn more about those impacted.

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