One year later, Sun Prairie businesses recover after explosion

Published: Jul. 8, 2019 at 9:30 PM CDT
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A year after six businesses were destroyed and several others were damaged in the Sun Prairie explosion in July 2018, shop owners are recovering and finding their new normal.

"All I saw was gigantic flames just pouring out of what used to be the front of our building," said Renee Von Klopp. She and her husband John own Razor Sharp Screen Printing. The building they'd been working in for five years, neighboring the Barr House, was lost in the explosion.

"It was just a pile of debris and burnt equipment and clothing," she said. "There was nothing to save, there was nothing to pull out of the space."

After they lost their building, the Von Klopps were able to continue business out of the basement of their home with the help of their vendors and customers. Eventually, they found a new location on Main Street, just down the street from where their old business had been.

Throughout the loss of their location, they said they never wanted anyone to feel bad for them.

"It was just a business, that's all it was, we didn't lose family, we didn't lose our home," she said. “I look at is as we were one of the lucky ones. I truly feel that there’s others who were hurt so much more by this than we were. We were able to recover, get back on our feet, we’re here in a brand new building and we’re working. There are others out there that are still probably suffering from the effects of this explosion.”

The Von Klopps are not the only downtown business owners who feel lucky.

Mark Rudd, owner of Mr. Rudd's Barbershop, received a call from one of his barbers on July 10, 2018, that his shop on Main Street had been damaged in the explosion.

"All the window was shattered, the sign was hanging out, and I was completely devastated about my business," he said.

However, after one week of cleaning and boarding up the shattered windows, Rudd had his shop up and running.

"Putting up some lamps, just trying to make it so we could see the hair to cut," he said.

The barbershop is now on Columbus Street, and Rudd has plans to expand his business. Throughout the past year, he said he was amazed at the strength of Sun Prairie.

“I was quite amazed, and what I learned was how powerful community is," he said. "It’s so powerful. And I was just happy to be a part of that.”

A year later, local businesses are getting their feet under them once again, and coming back Sun Prairie stronger.

"Sun Prairie Strong is not only a t-shirt, a beer can, a wrist band, it's really real," said Rudd.