Melrose residents holding benefit for restaurant, tire shop

Kevin Wilson

It’s first and foremost a business, but longtime owner Dale Bigler would also say that the Melrose Tire Service was just as much a labor of community service.

“I get a lot of phone calls, people wanting to know if I’m going to build it back,” said Bigler, whose tire shop, restaurant and convenience store were destroyed in an October fire. “They tell me the community needs it.

“It’s the only thing in Melrose. There’s no restaurant, no place for people to go, visit, sit down and have coffee.”

Bigler is on the way to rebuilding. The tire shop came back in service in November, and the oil change pit should be fixed in another two weeks. But the community is doing its part to help rebuild with a benefit event 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday at the shop.

The event will include a barbecue dinner, dance with a live band and a silent auction. Proceeds will go to defraying expenses that Bigler will incur rebuilding the shop.

He did not have insurance.

Heather Sullivan, whose family has lived in Melrose for a little more than a year, said she and her son Jack would go to “Dale’s” every day for drinks or snacks and her family was one of many devastated to hear of the fire.

It was commonplace for residents to go to the restaurant multiple times per day, and in its absence Melrose has only an Allsup’s convenience store and a small barbecue restaurant for a village of 650 people.

“There were a couple of people that wanted to get together and do something for Dale,” Sullivan said. “For me, it centered around my son. We ran with doing a big dinner, dance and silent auction benefit.”

Between all of its operations, Bigler said, the shop had 18 fulltime and three parttime employees before the Oct. 23 fire, which originated from a stove in the restaurant.

“We’ve got everything gutted,” Bigler said, “and we’re already putting it back together on electrical and plumbing.”

The fire’s damage was mainly to the restaurant and the convenience store, with some damage to garage doors in the tire shop and no damage to shower and laundry facilities used by truckers. Residents who have needed diesel fuel, sold nowhere else for 25 miles, have been able to fill up from a delivery truck Bigler’s kept on site.

But to get the property back to its old self, Bigler estimates expenses in the $400,000 range.

Sullivan said the village council has looked for ways to help, and secured low-interest loan opportunities.

Bigler, 65, assumes he’ll have to take around $300,000 from the bank, and he’d like to get the shop back in operation and in a position where he can sell it in the next two or three years.

“I’ve been doing this 35 years,” said Bigler, who has lived Melrose since 1985 and opened the Melrose Tire Service location in 1991. “That’s a long time.”