LACONIA — The owner of Pitman's Freight Room said yesterday that he expects the live music venue to reopen after Sunday morning's fire within a matter of weeks.
Richard "Dick" Mitchell said the fire that is still under investigation could have been a lot worse.
"It would have killed me," Mitchell said. "We put so much into it."
Mitchell said he was told the fire started around 2 a.m. Saturday in the back side of the building, on what used to be a freight loading dock. He said the Laconia Fire Department was returning to the station from extinguishing a suspicious dumpster fire near Hector's Restaurant when Pitman's fire alarm sounded nearby.
He said firefighters were there within one minute and were able to quickly extinguish the blaze. He said a portion of the back wall will need to be rebuilt and there is smoke damage throughout the building.
"It's a miracle that the fire department was so close," he said.
Pitman's, on New Salem Street, is a function hall and live entertainment venue that features live blues and soul music, comedy shows and other events.
According to their Webite, in 1988 Mitchell and his wife Connie bought the former freight station that was built in 1890 by Pitman's Manufacturing — one of the largest hosiery manufactures in New Hampshire in the 1800s.
The first stage of renovations saw the opening of an antique store in one end of the store. The live entertainment portion of the renovation started in 2009 after the Mitchell's renovated the remaining portion of the building, and installed heating, air conditioning, a third bathroom and a 5-sided hickory dance floor.
Pitman's averages one to four shows weekly and is a BYOB venue.
Mitchell said he can't thank the Laconia Fire Department enough for responding so quickly.
"These guys are wonderful," he said.
He said he also wanted to thank his many friends and his manager for the work they did on Sunday re-securing the building and being there when the insurance company came.
CAPTION – ( Pitman Freight Room) Charred insulation and board lies outside the back dock of Pitman's Freight Room. A suspicious fire caused about $20,000 in damage to the building early Saturday morning. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Gail Ober)