Fifty years ago, on Aug. 7, 1970, Frigid Products Store, known today as Heydlauff’s Appliance, was destroyed by fire.
According to accounts from “The Chelsea Standard” of Thursday, Aug. 13, 1970 the fire was discovered by Virginia Risner, who noticed a light, “like a night light”, followed by flames with heat enough to cause a window to blow out.
Risner ran into Seitz’s Tavern on Middle Street, notifying occupants. The fire department was notified.
A group of men then headed to the burning building and voluntarily moved vehicles parked nearby and large tanks of LP gas stored behind the building, on the loading dock.
Fire Chief James Gaken got the fire call at about 11 p.m. and got a fire truck to the scene before calling for mutual aid from neighboring fire departments to help fight the huge blaze. Dexter and Manchester Fire Departments arrived on the scene to assist, while firefighters from both Ann Arbor and Pittsfield Township headed to Chelsea with additional equipment.
As the news spread, local merchants headed to their Main Street stores to remove items as it was feared the fire might spread throughout the whole block. Although the fire was contained and did not destroy the entire block, damage was reported in adjacent buildings. According to the 1970 newspaper report, the fire spread to one adjacent building, owned by F.W. Merkel, and destroyed the second floor of that building, while the first floor had extensive damage.
The fire was declared under control between 3:30 and 4 a.m. The building along with the inventory and records inside the building, were completely destroyed.
Gaken said the fire was one of the worst fires that he’d seen as a fireman. At the time, Chelsea had a volunteer fire department that included 19 volunteer members.
Marion Longworth offered storage and retail space across the street in the former Buick Olds Showroom, now the site of Agricole, during the time Heydlauffs were rebuilding their store. The Heydlauff family was back in business the following week because in those days the Chelsea Depot served as their warehouse. Appliances stored there were available for sale in the temporary showroom.
Although all accounts receivable records were lost, customers with outstanding balances came to the store for months after the fire to settle accounts. This and other outpourings of support overwhelmed Lloyd and George Heydlauff. In a thank you, newspaper advertisement, Lloyd and George wrote “Only at a time such as this does a person fully begin to realize the loyalties and friendships that exist in our community. We are deeply grateful for everything.”
The appliance store as it stands today, opened in February of 1971. Chelsea Associated Builders built the structure, designed by Art Lindauer.
Over the last 50 years Heydlauff’s Appliance has operated out of the building completed in 1971. Today third generation Heydlauffs (Mark, Matt and Steve) and now fourth generation (Jake and Michael), continue to operate the business Lloyd Heydlauff started in 1928.
Currently, the business has a 12,000 square foot warehouse in Chelsea’s industrial Park and there are 17 employees. Plus, they are looking to hire even more staff. In 1970, it’s thought there were 6-8 employees.
For more information, the website is www.heydlauffs.com, telephone number is 734-475-1221.
Open daily (currently sales are by appointment due to COVID 19) from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and it is closed on Sundays.