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Calico Coffeehouse waiting to learn extent of damage following Finnish Labour Temple fire

The local coffeehouse in the building next to the Finnish Labour Temple sustained some water damage and more inspections are planned for next week to look into any possible structural damage.

THUNDER BAY - A popular coffeehouse that also has historical ties to the Finnish Labour Temple is still waiting to learn the extent of the damage its building sustained from a fire that destroyed the iconic structure next door but the owners are hopeful to reopen as soon as possible.

Calico Coffeehouse on Bay Street is directly adjacent to the Finnish Labour Temple, separated only by a narrow fire lane. On the night of Dec. 22, a fire broke out in the upper floors of the 111-year-old Labour Temple and the owners of Calico said their building sustained some damage from the fire suppression efforts to put out the fire next door but the full extent is not yet known.

“We are not sure yet,” said Alexis Grunys, who co-owns Calico with Sheena Doran. “Because of the holidays, we are still waiting on actual structural engineering, roofing to make sure. The building took on so much water on top. We are still waiting to hear.”

Thunder Bay Fire Rescue crews battled the Finnish Labour Temple fire throughout the night of Dec. 22 and continued putting out hotspots for several days after.

The fire resulted in part of the third floor collapsing into the second and the building’s owner, Brad McKinnon, said it is a total loss. The cause of the fire is still under investigation

Grunys said because the Calico building was so close to the Finnish Labour Temple, fire crews had hoses on the roof to aid in the fire suppression efforts.

“There was some water damage in here,” she said. “Our boiler room had four feet of water so our heating system is done. Until that gets replaced it’s all plugin heaters to make sure nothing freezes.”

Complete inspections are expected to take place next week and Grunys said they have been in contact with their insurance company and they are hoping to reopen in some capacity soon.

“We hope so, but it’s going to be a bit before we get the actual heating system in,” she said. “If we are able to reopen, it will just be takeout for a while because we will only have heaters plugged in and people won’t be able to sit down.”

Calico has been open at the Bay Street location for more than 16 years and Grunys and Doran say they cannot picture reopening the coffeehouse in any other location.

They also have many fond memories of sitting in the Hoito next door as they worked on their business plan for the coffeehouse and Grunys said the building had such an important presence not just for the neighbourhood, but the entire community.

“It’s very devastating. It’s heartbreaking. Especially with everything to do with the history next door,” Grunys said. “And it’s heartbreaking for the new owners, for Brad, because we know how much work they were putting in and they were so close to being done.”

McKinnon, who took over ownership of the Finnish Labour Temple last year and was renovating the space to add apartments, said he plans to rebuild the structure.

The building where Calico is now also has its own historical connection to the Finnish Labour Temple, offering a space for Finnish people in the region supporting the other side of the 1918 Finnish Civil War.

The Finnish Labour Temple was known as the White Finn Hall, for supporters who opposed to communist revolutionary Red Finns, who would meet next door in the Red Finn Hall or Little Finn Hall in the building next door.

“Our two buildings have a lot of history and connection together so we hope that can be rebuilt together,” Grunys said. “I think it’s really important. Not just in Thunder Bay, but the Hoito is known worldwide. It’s important as one of those community and historical landmarks to have in this area.”

Doug Diaczuk

About the Author: Doug Diaczuk

Doug Diaczuk is a reporter and award-winning author from Thunder Bay. He has a master’s degree in English from Lakehead University
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