Anders Shoe Store in Miami was destroyed in a blaze Tuesday, July 10, in an incident that has been deemed suspicious by the Miami Fire Department.
MIAMI – One of Miami's oldest businesses, Anders Shoes, was totally destroyed by a suspicious fire sometime early Tuesday morning.
Dena Ander, the 103-year-old owner, has had a horrible week. Ander, who still opened and worked in the shop daily, has been working there since she was a sophomore in high school.
Anders Shoes was first vandalized, the front door glass smashed in with a heavy metal lock, and burglarized twice recently, on Saturday, July 7 and again on Monday, July 10. Ander believed the burglars used a set of stolen keys to re-enter the building the second time.
Miami Fire Chief Robert Wright said the fire call came into the Miami Fire Department sometime after 2:30 a.m. and all units arrived on scene minutes later finding the building at 27 South Main completely engulfed in flames.
“The call came in as possible fire and smoke coming from the building,” Wright said.
The fire is under investigation.
“It's suspicious, the back door was unsecured when the first police officer got there, so we're thinking maybe they had a key to it too,” Wright said. “A fire at 2:30 in the morning is suspicious.”
When Miami Fire Department units arrived the building was consumed in flames.
“They went in and tried to knock it down through the roof, and they had to back out because the roof was collapsing,” Wright said.
Anders Shoes and all inventory were completely destroyed by the fire, collapsing the ceiling, and sustaining water damages.
The building and contents are insured.
Adjoining buildings and businesses, Jeannie's, Venue 29, and Larco offices all received substantial damages as well, but firefighters were able to save the structures and avoid destruction.
“Jeannie's has smoke damage, but there's no water or fire damage to it. They were able to contain it to Anders Shoe Store,” Wright said. “Now, Larry Smith's Venue 29, the window on the north side when it vented through the roof it busted that window and they've got smoke and water damage in it. Their building was sprinkled and the sprinkler head went off and kept the fire from coming into their building. The windows are just right above Anders Shoes on the north.”
Wright said it has not been determined yet where the fire started in the building, or what may have been used to set fire to the building.
The Miami Fire Department kept firefighters on scene for precautions to watch for hot spots for a while longer after the fire was extinguished.
“When the roof falls down it's hard to be sure it doesn't rekindle," the Fire Chief said.
Firefighters responded from both the North and South Miami Fire Department Stations and the Quapaw Tribe Fire/EMS.
“I think we had 31 total firefighters respond, 14 from here, and I'm telling you, we need every one of them with something like that,” Wright said. “Quapaw brought like 15, we had 14, then Kyle (Captain Highsmith) and myself and we had a couple of ambulances there. The police were helping put the five-inch up lines, so everybody played a part.”
The large, fast and capable expert response allowed the fire to be doused quickly and saved other downtown Miami businesses from harm despite the huge challenges faced.
"Anytime you have buildings right beside each other it's so hard to protect those exposures on both sides and we were able to do that, and so I am very pleased,” Wright said. “Thank goodness no injuries occurred either.”
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Like many others in the community, Wright, a lifelong Miami resident, was saddened by the loss of Ander's business and damages to the other businesses. Joe Ander started the shoe store in 1930 as a shoe repair business with his daughter Dena. The store has had two longtime employees working there with Ander, Phyliss Essex and Shirley Shelton.
“Dena has been there since she was 15. We feel bad for them and want to do everything we can do,” he said. “As bad as it is, I feel a little good about how it ended with what we had though.”
Friends say Dena Ander was in good spirits Tuesday morning despite the ordeal.
Miami Police Detectives were on scene early Tuesday, searching for evidence and conducting interviews and further investigating the fire. Anyone with information is urged to call the Miami Police Department at 918-542-5585.
Melinda Stotts is the associate editor of the Miami News-Record. She can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org or followed on Twitter @MelindaStotts1.