Rochester, MI

Downtown Rochester business burns down over night, community mourns

Author Ed Anderson
Moon River Soap Company burned down last nightMayor Pro Tem Nancy Silva

It seemed to be a typical day in downtown Rochester. People congregated outside Knapp's Donuts, talking about the latest national and local news. When the conversation turned to downtown, the mood changed. Once fiery talk about the state of the country turned more contemplative. 

That's because Moon River Soap Company was destroyed in a blaze overnight. Nobody was hurt in the blaze, but the city lost one of the most iconic businesses in the growing downtown area. Local resident Jack Brandt told me: "Moon River wasn't just a soap company; they were part of the community. Whenever someone needed a donation for a charity or help to raise money, they had to put in a request, and they always got what they needed." 

Mayor Pro Tem Nancy Silva wrote on Facebook that she was thankful nobody was in the building. She also said that she and all of the city's leadership were grateful for the help of the Rochester Fire Department and all of the surrounding communities. 

People who live and work in the area told the Detroit News that they heard a loud pop before the blaze began. This led several to theorize that a transformer blew, which was the cause of the fire. 

However, investigators say that the cause of the fire is still unknown at this time.
The burned out building is still the sire of an investigationEdward Anderson

The Cost Of Fire

DTE crews were on the scene this morning, cleaning up and looking into whether there was an issue with the electricity. Much of Fourth Street, where Moon River Soap sits, is blocked off by the utility workers, and there were still some firefighters on the scene. 

Anna Williams watched the crews working for much of the morning. She told me they seemed to know what caused the fire but stayed mum to reporters and onlookers. "They know. They have to know by now, I would think. I mean, they've been out here since early this morning." 

Once the conversation turned to rebuild the store, there was some trepidation about whether or not that was in the cards. Jack said: "I don't think so, no. It would take them too long, and every day they're closed, they would be losing money. It wouldn't make a lot of sense." 

Nearby business Be Scene Boutique closed today because they lost power during the two-alarm fire. In a Facebook post, they asked for patience as they navigate the next few days and try to fulfill orders. 

Other businesses in the area were open and greeting customers. Though, many of the employees noted that there was a sadness in the air. At the Detroit Tarot Company, a woman who introduced herself as Sarah told me the fire was at the top of everyone's minds; "People are coming in and asking what I know. All I know is what I'm hearing from other people."
Moon River Soap Company burned down in the early hours of May 11Edward Anderson

Into The Unknown

Investigators and other officials have stayed relatively mum on where they are in the investigation. This has frustrated many residents. They want to know what's happening with the beloved business and what caused the fire that destroyed the building that destroyed it. 

At Beans and Leaf, the conversation was a bit more muted. Sanjay Najdi wondered what was going to happen to the employees and the local economy as a whole. He told me: "We just got back from the pandemic, what is this fire going to cost the city's economy? Even if they reopen, a lot of their workers will be unemployed for six months or so. I don't see how this doesn't have a negative impact across the city." 

When many of the local companies were just opening in the early morning hours, Sanjay's concern seemed to be unfounded. Patrons filled the stores, and lines for the coffee shops were consistently packed. However, Sarah said she expected a lot of "look Lous" for most of the day, and tomorrow things would go back to normal. 

It seemed like a typical day in downtown Rochester, but it was anything but ordinary.

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Ed Anderson is a true crime and gossip writer from Detroit, Michigan. Ed is the author of several true crime books, most recently Cold Cases From Around The World.

Rochester, MI

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