(Independent Photo/Karen Mead-Elford)
The former Jumbo’s Burger Bar in downtown Owosso was completely destroyed by fire Thursday evening, April 1. The longtime popular community stop closed its doors in March 2019. Owners Todd and Shelly Sydow purchased the business in July 2016. Prior, it had been operated by Joe Merkel and his family who had purchased it in 1994, with his daughter, Sharol Haskins, taking over as general manager after his passing. Haskins sold the property to the Sydow couple who remained in ownership of the former bar.
Jumbo’s Burger Bar, located on the southwest corner of S. Washington and Comstock streets, across from the vacant JCPenney building, was unoccupied at the time of the fire. The business dates back to the mid-1960s, though the structure was much older.
According to Owosso Public Safety Director Kevin Lenkart, the cause of the fire remains under investigation. The Owosso Fire Department (OFD) was able to be on site within three minutes of the dispatch call coming in, with multiple fire departments soon responding to the effort. OFD was assisted by the Corunna-Caledonia Fire Department, Owosso Charter Township Fire Department and the Perry Fire Department. The firefighters worked the fire for over a twenty-four hour period. The fire burned very hot and there was considerable smoke in the downtown area, particularly on Thursday night.
Downtown residents were without power for quite some time, as well. Power crews were forced to turn off power Thursday evening to keep the firefighters safe.
Small groups of residents gathered on downtown corners to watch the blaze.
Along with firefighters, Owosso Department of Public Works employees, city staff members and the Owosso Police Department, all worked tirelessly to help where needed. Extra city employees continued working at the water plant to maintain the correct pressure for the water mains.
By 9 a.m. Friday morning, the remains of the building were still smoldering within the basement as the interior of the structure had mostly collapsed inward, primarily leaving only the exterior brick shell, which was structurally unsafe due to the heat and water damage. Lenkart said the Jumbo’s basement is about 12-feet deep. A portion of Comstock and S. Washington streets were closed off to through traffic.
Early video footage on Thursday evening shared on social media from an Owosso passerby shows the fire likely stemmed from the area near a north facing side-entrance – close to basement stairs.
Nearby businesses were kept safe from the fire.