Monday evening around 7 p.m., Herbie’s Bar co-owner Jason Gorka and his fiancee and co-worker Cary Blechinger had just made the 12 minute trip from the Sobieski bar to Walmart in Little Falls, when the bartender called and told them that the bar was on fire.
“Honestly we thought he was kidding. “‘No, this is not funny the bar is on fire,’” Blechinger said. Afterward, Blechinger said the reaction was “why is this happening?” The reality of the situation hit them as they pulled into Sobieski.
All four people who were in the building, including Daniel Gorka, the other co-owner and Jason’s brother, and his daughter made it out safely, though both had lost everything in the fire.
There had been a tense time while Blechinger and Jason tried to find out where the two were, but by the time they got to Sobieski, everyone was accounted for and safe.
Blechinger said the bar had been huge to the brothers, with Jason having worked there from when he was 17 until Monday, while Daniel had also worked at the bar for years.
“Their blood, sweat and tears was that bar. Everything they did was wrapped around the bar and the catering facility,” Blechinger said. “It was everything to them.”
Before being owned by Jason and Daniel, their father John owned it for 30 years.
Blechinger said the bar had been a place where the family had met. Children and grandchildren had gone to the bar as they grew up to spend time with family.
“It’s like we lost a family member, it really is,” Blechinger said.
While the good memories everyone has of the bar will remain, Blechinger said, the bar itself was a total loss.
Not only was the loss of the bar a blow to the family, Blechinger said, it was also a deep blow to the community.
“It was almost a second home to a lot of people. They loved that place,” Blechinger said.
Since the fire, many people have told her what Herbie’s meant to them and their stories of the bar, since the fire happened, Blechinger said.
As the people who had filled the parking lot, the ballpark and the streets watched over 70 firefighters combat the fire, Blechinger said, everyone expressed their dread and sadness when the roof collapsed at 10:07 p.m.
The outpouring of support from the community has been amazing, Blechinger said.
Everyone from catering competitors to the insurance company, to the firefighters to just regular members of the community have offered their sympathies and help to the Gorkas.
“Everyone has just offered so much to us whether it be their kitchens, their utensils, a spoon of sugar, everyone has just been so generous,” Blechinger said.
The bar’s catering business is planning to meet all events it was hired for Blechinger said, with the first event having happened Friday.
To get those events back on the books, Blechinger is asking customers to call her at (320) 360-6277 to confirm the events the bar was hired to cater.
Everyone wants to rebuild bigger and better than ever, Blechinger said, but everything is contingent on what insurance will cover and how much rebuilding costs.
Blechinger said she also wants to stop any rumors people have about what started the fire. The fire marshal is currently investigating it and the results will be shared when they become available.