The Nov. 23 fire at Old Mill Plaza caused a big mess, but didn’t claim any lives or destroy any businesses.


The Nov. 23 fire at Old Mill Plaza caused a big mess, but didn’t claim any lives or destroy any businesses. Reba’s Restaurant, the Pacesetter Hair Studio and the dental office of Drs. Harold Gregg and Thomas Bette received the heaviest smoke damage. The three businesses were displaced from the plaza as cleanup crews from National Catastrophe Recovery Inc. out of Wichita went to work in the building.

Reba and Lander Ballard, owners of Reba’s Restaurant, had to replace nearly everything besides the restaurant itself. Insurance didn’t cover the food-preparation items, utensils, dishes, plates, cups, etc.

Friends and employees of the Ballards stepped up with a couple benefits to help them ease the financial burden of what they had to replace. A Dec. 11 art auction at the Carriage Factory Gallery was followed by a Dec. 18 concert and raffle hosted by Newton’s Fox Theatre.

Reba’s reopened for business Tuesday. Reba Ballard said the emotions during the clean-up effort went from one end to another as the stress of trying to reopen her restaurant coincided with a charitable outreach from the community.

“You think you’re crying because you’re overwhelmed, and then you’re crying because you’re overwhelmed by kindness,” she said the week following the fire.

Pacesetter owner, Nancy Campa and co-worker Brandi Hankins also had uninsured items to replace, including retail hair products.

Pacesetter and the dental office received even worse smoke damage than Reba’s and are still waiting to return to Old Mill Plaza.

Drs. Gregg and Bette are seeing patients in a temporary office on Main Street.

Campa and Hankins have been working out of two separate locations, waiting to reunite at their old business.

Pacesetter suffered some structural damage, which requires additional work.

Old Mill Plaza managing member and part owner, Bret Burton said he hoped to have both businesses return to the plaza by the second week of January.