From zero to 120
Emotional stories of struggles and recovery from the flood of 2011 can be found throughout the Souris River Basin. Many of them occurred, and are still occuring, in Minot.
“When I got down here I cried for half an hour. What am I going to do?” recalled Duane Brekke, Minot.
That was Brekke’s reaction after finally allowed into his business property as flood water began to receede in 2011. Brekke owned the former Blessner-Olds building located on Burdick Expressway East near Corbett Field and Roosevelt Park. He had converted the former automobile dealership to house several businesses. Then the flood came and ripped through the facility, including the nearby Roosevelt Suites which were built by Brekke. The mucky water caused so much damage that all of Brekke’s tennants were forced to vacate the premises.
“I was just sick. I was devastated. I had no occupants and a big bill,” said Brekke. “When I asked the bank if they wanted me to deed it back to them they said, what are we going to do with it? I told them if I was going to take it back I’d need their help, and I made a vow to come back.”
Today the corner is home to about 120 renters and employees, a remarkable change for a corner of town that had a population of zero for more than a year. The dozen Roosevelt Suites are fully rented. Two other buildings on the property, one a former body shop, contain a siding business and an oil field maintainence business, are in use once again. The main building, constructed in 1949, contains several other clients.
“PTI, Professional Transportation Incorporated, has about 35 employees here. They provide transportation for railroads,” explained Brekke. “There’s Fireside Office Supply, Bachman Cabinetry and a doctor’s office. Upstairs is a Texas company with about 35 people, all oil business. As of the first of April, 2013, I’m 100 percent full.”
Brekke did much of the renovation of the flooded property himself, but is quick to point out he couldn’t have done it without the help of Bennie Weible, a jack-of-all-trades who has assisted Brekke with other projects in the past. None, however, compare to the size and scope of the restoration project facing the duo after the flood.
“Other people suffered worse than I did,” noted Brekke. “I didn’t live here. My house was high and dry. Certainly I’ve made mistakes, but we’ve got a heck of a lot done.”
Soon to be 75 years of age, Brekke says he was blessed with a positive attitude that makes working on such projects a hobby. He began his days at 7 a.m. as soon as he was allowed back onto his flooded property and worked seven days a week.
“We were still pumping water out of the basement (this past) March,” said Brekke. ” I’m blessed with good health and a wonderful wife who stuck with me. I signed a contract that I’ll be here another 40 years to pay this off. The SBA will be contending with me until I’m 104 years old!”