Owners plan to rebuild Main Street property lost to fire

Franey family says it will rebuild commercial property home to Alejandra’s and Jimmy John’s which were displaced following a devastating fire on May 1

VISALIA – Owners of the downtown building which burned in a May 1 fire are taking steps to rebuild.

The Franey family’s plans to rebuild the commercial property in the 300 block of West Main Street went before the city of Visalia’s Site Plan Review Committee on May 25. The 8,400 square foot building will again be home to Main Street mainstay Alejandra’s Mexican Restaurant and sandwich chain Jimmy John’s. 

Mark Franey, who is leading the project for the family, said the building has the support of the owners, the city and, more importantly, the returning tenants.

“The city is ready and willing to help us get this project going as quickly as possible,” Franey said. “This is a good spot and we have great tenants.”

The fire was reported at about 4:25 p.m. on May 1 and was determined to have started in a dumpster in the alleyway behind the businesses. According to the Visalia Fire Department, the fire quickly spread through the older buildings because they share attic space. Nearly 50 firefighters, nine engines, several ladder trucks and light engines from the Visalia Fire Department, Tulare City Fire Department, Tulare County Fire Department and Cal Fire responded to the fire as a column of black smoke could be seen across the city. The third tenant of the building, Decor to Adore, said they were not interested in reopening the business after suffering their second devastating fire in less than a year. Just eight months earlier, Decor to Adore was among four businesses devoured by flames after 11 p.m. on Aug. 18, 2021, when a two-alarm fire burned down a two-story commercial building in the 1200 block of East Houston Avenue. 

The fire also threatened popular eatery Quesadilla Gorilla and the historic Visalia Fox Theatre but that landmark building was able to avoid all fire and water damage thanks to an 18-inch thick fire wall built as part of the original construction in 1930. The Fox Theatre did hire a clearing a company to thoroughly clean the theater of any smoke, soot and debris that entered the building through the ventilation system.

The commercial property is being rebuilt across the street from the last major fire on Christmas Day in 2018. The fire started in the kitchen of Mamma K’s Diner, 233 W. Main St., and spread quickly through the attic which was shared with two adjoining businesses in Café 225, located at 225 W. Main St., and Acapulco Jewelers, 221 W. Main St. The three-alarm fire caused extensive damage causing the building’s entire roof to cave in. The fire affected three other businesses. Pacific Treasures, 219 W. Main St., had significant smoke damage while Exotica Hair Studio, 301 W. Main St., and Little Italy Restaurant, 303 W. Main St., both sustained water damage.

The front of the shops remain boarded up and spray painted with an artistic lettering of Visalia to distract from the vacant buildings. Nearly all of the businesses folded up shop for good. The only business to survive the fire was Pacific Treasures, which relocated to 114 E Main St. 

“It’s been four years since that fire and we don’t want the community to wait another four years before something happens on this side of the street,” Franey said. “People are always commenting on our downtown and we want it to remain a nice area.”

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