Couple picking up the pieces after fire

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette Jeanne Liuska and Brandon Looper work to recover items from their gem and mineral shop and apartment in Calumet after they were destroyed in a fire Friday night. The shop had been scheduled to open Monday, Looper said.

CALUMET — Two days before they had planned to open their gem and mineral shop in downtown Calumet, Brandon Looper and Jeanne Liuska were sifting through the debris of the Friday night fire that gutted three buildings, including their home and new business.

The idea had been a labor of love for Looper, who put his life savings into the business.

“I didn’t want to swing a hammer my whole life, so I thought I’d try something new,” he said.

They were just outside of L’Anse when they got a phone call about the fire Friday night. Liuska, thankfully, had thought about leaving her dog at home, but had thankfully reconsidered.

“We were told it was on the third floor and worked its way down, which was a little bit of hope,” Liuska said. “Then someone called and said ‘Everything’s gone.’ … I saw the picture, and it hit hard. It seems so unreal.”

Had they been there, they might have been able to salvage more, Looper said. The inventory had been the culmination of years of prospecting, Liuska said. The entryway was filled with rocks they had planned to cut and polish.

Looper lost a wide collection of vintage goods, including coins, antique toys, mining maps from the 1880s and blueprints for the Champion Mine. They were not carrying insurance, Looper said.

“They’re one of a kind, and I’ll never get them back,” he said. “Nobody will. They’re lost forever.”

To save money on storage, Looper had also brought all his possessions to a storage space behind the building, which was destroyed in the fire.

By mid-Saturday afternoon, they’d salvaged about 100 pounds of an estimated 5,000 pounds of copper they had at the shop.

But Looper brushed aside any talk of condolences. They’re healthy, he said. And the fire left plenty of others in the same position.

“It’s not snowing, and the bugs aren’t biting,” he said.

In the short term, Looper and Liuska are staying at a motel. If someone’s hiring, Looper will be back swinging a hammer.

“It sounds bad, but we’re Yoopers,” he said. “We find a way to pick up the pieces.”


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $4.62/week.

Subscribe Today