January 21, 2017
7:24 pm

Fire Strikes St. Joe Restaurant

A smoky fire at a popular take out restaurant in the Southtown neighborhood of St. Joseph caused considerable alarm and a massive response on social media tonight, but at first blush, the rapid response from fire and safety crews appears to have helped save the building and the business.

The first alarms were sounded around 6:30pm, and fire fighters arrived to find smoke rolling from the a-frame style roof of The Chicken Coop at 2062 Washington Avenue across the street from Burger King. There were also tangible fears that if the fire were to get out of control in the heavy winds that have rolled across the Midwest all day today the fire might spread to neighboring businesses like the Sandmann Barbershop, Reva Salon & Spa, Gillespie's Drugs and the Primart Citgo service station at the corner of Hilltop & Washington Avenue. There were no immediate reports of anyone being injured in the fire, as employees quickly escaped while calling public safety officers to the scene. 

The restaurant is reportedly owned and operated by Jason Variell of Eau Claire who was busy assessing damage and preparing plans for clean up so that the business can return to action as soon as possible. His JRV Ventures, limited liability corporation was founded in 2010 as the corporate entity for The Chicken Coop which is a very popular fried chicken and fish restaurant that operates on take out sales. 

The Chicken Coop has been an iconic mainstay in the Southtown neighborhood for decades, and the social media response to WSJM Radio's live Facebook videos produced by News Director Ray Gustafson erupted into thousands of views, hundreds of shares, and countless concerns voiced by fans of the restaurant. Sadly, family members, employees and close friends also sustained a considerable measure of insensitive comments by people joking about grease, overcooking, and other adolescent poking at the situation.

Authorities are working to assess the damage to the building and its contents, as well as the cause of the smoky blaze. Variell family members are expressing hope that the turnaround for the business will be as painless as possible and as quick as can be undertaken. Stay tuned for additional information as the investigation continues.
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