Surveying the damage of Grape Road fire

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An early morning fire on Grape Rd. Friday gutted two businesses, and now the owners are left wondering where to go from here.

The fire broke out at the JMS Plaza on Grape Rd. in Mishawaka around 2:00 am.

Polito's Italian Restaurant, and Factory Direct Spas are both a total loss, and the owners still haven't been told the cause of the fire.

“The flames were just burning, and I never thought they’d stop. I’d never seen a fire like that. I hope I never see another one again,” said Mary Simeri, who owns JMS Plaza with her husband Joe.

For the owners of the building, Friday morning was a nightmare.

“You know how hard it was? I started crying, and I said, oh my God our building! It’s just like like losing something real special, and it is real special to us,” Simeri said.

Saturday afternoon, the Simeris had a difficult time looking at the burnt remains of the building.

“It’s just hard to take and then you see our tenants sad. But, they’re taking it pretty good too, you know,” Simeri said.

Polito's and the spa store leased the buildings from the Simeris, who have owned the whole plaza since it was it was put in back in 1965.

It was one of the first plazas on Grape Rd.

A former Polito's employee came to see it for himself on Saturday, too.

“I found out and at first I thought they were joking with me,” said Michael Wanecke, who no longer works at Polito’s, but says he stays in touch with the Polito family. “It’s crazy because I've been coming here for at least 7 years… I even remember back when it was Bonnie Doon's back before Polito's.”

But he says the owners of Polito’s tell him they plan to re-open at another location, one they'd planned to use as a second store front.

“So they should be back in operation within a month,” Wanecke said.

Meanwhile, the Simeris say they're already talking to contractors about re-building, as soon as they get clearance from the fire department; which is still trying to determine a cause.

“Hopefully we'll get it rebuilt and we'll go on with our lives; and hopefully our tenants will come back with us,” Simeri said.

The Simeris say Factory Direct Spas is currently operating out of its warehouse.

Meanwhile, The Simeris say they're thankful the Outback Steakhouse next door wasn't damaged.

The restaurant had to bring in cleaners Friday morning, but never had to close due to the blaze.