FARMINGTON - From a fuel fire igniting an auto repair shop to celebratory rainbow snow cones with firefighters under blue skies, one year makes a difference.
A blaze nearly extinguished the dreams of business owner Eric Zeimet last summer, but the community celebration was much brighter and well wishes were warmer at the open house at EZ Auto Repair.
"We wanted to hold off on the grand opening until our one-year mark and that was yesterday on June 21," Zeimet said.
For three hours Friday, there were only congratulations, handshakes and hugs. All were able to see the brand new 3,600-square-foot shop.
Zeimet welcomed the community, local firefighters and city leaders to celebrate his rebuilt shop with a barbecue, snow cone food truck and fundraiser to benefit the local fire department.
Farmington firefighters parked two fire trucks in front of the Elm Street business. Many passersby honked during the party.
Zeimet asked firefighters to stand in ribbon-cutting photographs and a few firefighters joked about how that may not be good luck because the last time they were on the property was not a good day.
Farmington Fire Chief Justin Elvestad said firefighters who battled the blaze a year ago had fun celebrating at the party.
"They liked to see final outcome a year after the fire and from a fire safety standpoint, it was nice to see it rebuilt with an automatic fire sprinkler system," Elvestad said.
"The owner opted to put in a fire sprinkler when the code did not require it - it is always nice to be proactive and on a good note after a bad situation, thankfully no one was hurt in the fire and the outcome was not as bad as it could have been."
A leaking auto gas line caused the June 21, 2017, fire that burned the shop only three months after it had opened on March 20.
Rosemount, Hastings and five other departments provided mutual aid. They contained the fire within the business structure so flames did not touch the rubber tires stacked on the north side of the building exterior. The fire did not touch the residential home and camper parked within 50 feet in the back of the repair.
The fire was dangerous due to the small explosions from fuel, oil, solvents and other lubricants, according to former Fire Chief Jim Larsen, who had all eight departments working in unison.
"I wouldn't wish this on anyone - it was a big headache in between and a lot of sleepless nights, but it was definitely worth it in the end," Zeimet said. "The community outpouring has been phenomenal."
After the fire, EZ Auto Repair operated for 10 months out of rented stall on Third Street. Networking with local mechanics in town, Zeimet said the small businesses have stepped up to help out each other.
"It been a long road and it has opened my eyes to thank God for my life, I guess, and I want to thank the Lord that everyone got out and all my employees," he said. "All the money we are donating to the fire department to say thanks."