Powder Hounds Restaurant reopens -- a journey in perseverance after 2012 fire
Photo Gallery | Powder Hounds Restaurant and Tavern
This story was modified on June 3 to correct Fred Krueger's first name, which was originally listed as John. In addition, it was the couple's insurance company, not the town of Hancock, that required the restaurant be rebuilt within its original footprint.
HANCOCK -- The water damage was worse than anything the fire left behind. But when the blaze was finally brought under control, only the front wall and the back dining room of the restaurant were salvageable.
Fred Krueger and Ashlee Zanconato knew they faced a massive rebuilding job if they wanted to open Powder Hounds Restaurant and Tavern on Brodie Mountain Road again.
They flirted with the idea of opening a country store on the site instead of another eatery. But so many former customers kept asking them about the establishment that the couple decided to try the restaurant business one more time.
It took almost two years and involved a number of obstacles, including having to postpone their wedding for financial reasons. But the pair realized their dream when they re-opened the renovated Powder Hounds last month.
"When we opened the door and everybody came back, I forgot that we were closed," Zanconato said.
The $1.1 million renovation, performed by Salco Construction Co. of Pittsfield, has fully restored Powder Hounds. But it definitely took awhile to get to that point.
According to Zanconato, the fire that devastated Powder Hounds in October 2012 began when a power strip ignited in an attic office space on the second floor of the two-story structure. Firefighters from seven different departments battled the blaze from 2 p.m. until 6 a.m. the following day. An excessive amount of water had to be dumped on the building because the blaze kept re-igniting.
"There wasn't anything we could do as far as saving it," she said.
The damage "triggered every code upgrade you can possibly imagine," Zanconato said, which meant all of the electrical wiring and plumbing had to be replaced, and everything had to be brought up to modern handicap-accessibility standards.
"It was originally a house with a little bar," Zanconato said.
The building had been constructed in 1947 as a residence/bar/restaurant that was operated by Krueger's aunt, Claire Hanson. Krueger inherited the space in December 1999, and spent $150,000 on renovations before opening it as Powder Hounds. But the fire destroyed everything Krueger had built, and it all had to be replaced.
The couple had obtained fire insurance on Powder Hounds, but according to Zanconato the company declined to pay them for damages based on a technicality. They sued their insurance company, and the matter was settled through mediation.
Krueger and Zanconato were obviously strapped for cash. But she said they were able to obtain financial assistance from both Lee Bank and an "angel investor," who was a friend of their attorney.
They started renovating Powder Hounds last August, and finished the majority of the work in April.
"It was a long road," said Krueger, who credited Zanconato with doing the majority of the work. "We would not be here [without her efforts].
"I was kind of heartbroken when the restaurant burned down because I knew my uncle had done the majority of the [original] work himself."
Zanconato said the insurance company required them to build within the footprint of the former restaurant. The new eatery looks basically the same as the old one did, she said, except the bar is now curved, and no longer runs the length of the lounge room. New handicapped-accessible restrooms were put in. They also removed a stairwell and chimney that were in the kitchen, and moved the pizza oven.
Slowly, things began to return to normal. The former chef returned, as did three-quarters of their 12 former staffers. Krueger and Zanconato didn't advertise when they planned to re-open, but customers began stopping by when they saw more cars in their parking lot. The Friday after they opened, Zanconato said Powder Hounds had 160 customers, a lot of traffic for this time of year.
"That's amazing," Zanconato said.
Powder Hounds is open daily except Tuesday. The tavern opens at 3 p.m., and dining begins at 4 p.m.
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