Fire strikes Gurnee Donuts for 2nd time in 4 days

Frank Abderholden
fabderholden@stmedianetwork.com | @abderholden
Aug. 20 2:56 p.m.

Four days after a fire at Gurnee Donuts closed down part of the Grand Mill Plaza, firefighters returned to the strip mall Wednesday to extinguish another blaze.

About 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, the Gurnee Fire Department got another emergency call reporting the smell of smoke coming from the strip mall on the southeast corner of Milwaukee and Grand avenues.

“I used a pen to push up [a ceiling] tile and the smell got stronger, that’s when I called my son to call 911,” said Vishnu Kumar Patel, owner of the tobacco shop next to Gurnee Donuts.

While firefighters were on the scene, the owners of the adjoining Honeybaked Ham Cafe, Balmes Flowers, Magestic Dental and the Stanton Law Center were all outside in the parking lot. Many of them were still cleaning up from Saturday’s fire, which destroyed the doughnut shop.

“We had a dozen guys in here at 8 a.m. cleaning everything down and then they got evacuated,” said Eric Marhoefer, who runs Honeybaked Ham Cafe with his wife Jillian.

“We still have air filters running inside, about a dozen, he said. “We didn’t get as much smoke [this time] as the tobacco shop.”

“It just started smoking,” Marhoefer added.

Fire officials said an investigator had just arrived at 12:30 p.m. and it was unknown if the same source of Saturday’s fire rekindled or if the cause came from elsewhere. The weekend fire started in Gurnee Donuts’ back storage area for supplies like cardboard and paper.

The second fire appeared to have started in the ceiling near where the tobacco shop and doughnut shop share a wall, officials and busines owners said.

Firefighters cut into the roof and sprayed down the inside of the ceiling.

Matthew Stanton, of the Stanton Law Center, said a new partner was just moving in Wednesday when they had to evacuate. The Saturday fire only caused smoke damage to the law center.

“I aired it out over the weekend,” he said.

The doughnut shop was destroyed with about $100,000 worth of damage, officials said.

“That’s a sad thing. They filled up this parking lot because of their well known reputation,” Stanton said. “There’s a lot of sadness here.”

The Lee family that has owned the doughnut shop for 20 years is now trying to raise money to re-open the local landmark.

They have started a page at www.gofundme.com that has garnered almost $7,000 from 122 donors so far.

“My family has been serving the Lake County area with doughnuts for over 20 years. We love our customers and community and have watched numerous individuals grow up, as many have also watched my brother and I grow up,” Kevin Lee wrote in the introduction of the Rebuild Gurnee Donuts fundraising site. “We owe everything to Gurnee Donuts. Today, I would like to ask our loyal customers, friends, family, or strangers for any assistance in helping us rebuild our shop. We know it’s going to take some time for us to rebuild, but we definitely will be making a return. Thank you!”

Before moving to Gurnee 22 years ago, the family owned the Lee Donut shop in Libertyville.

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