Fire engulfs historic mill, business; fundraiser underway to help staff

by Benita Fuzzell

A historical landmark nestled within the Twin Cities, in South Fulton, was lost in a fire on the night of Feb. 13, as Fulton, South Fulton, and Union City Fire Departments, who together had 27 firefighters at the scene, on site for approximately 4 1/2 hours, did their best to battle the blaze that ultimately brought to the ground, Reed Brothers Feed and Seed, on College Street in South Fulton.

More recently known and enjoyed by many as Lenny’s at Reed Brothers, a restaurant, bar and grill with an amazing brick oven pizza, bbq specialties, cold beverages and a warm welcome to anyone who walked through the door, business owner Lenny Hohlbein and his family are devastated from the loss, but as has been the case throughout his time in the restaurant business, Lenny has much more concern for his loyal staff, which includes five full time and four part time employees, than for himself. He has arranged and sponsored numerous fundraisers with proceeds donated to those in need, throughout his time in business.

He bought Reed Brothers Feed and Seed in 2000, the main reason being, at the time, he had cattle, as did some friends, so it was a way to supply feed.

“I had always heard the original building had been there since 1935. I do know there was a fire another time, maybe in the 70s, in a different building,” he said, during a conversation at his business, on Sunday.

While the piles of charred rubble and twisted metal create mounds of debris similar to what’s seen in a war zone, the interior of Lenny’s in somewhat in tact, with the exception of the kitchen and back wall. While there is currently no power supply in the building, the blackness from layers of ash and suet blankets the bar area and side room, where so many have gathered through the years, for a family meal, a birthday party, wedding and baby showers and class reunions, as well as to listen to live music and karaoke.

After about five-six years operating as a feed store, and following the opening of larger bulk-buy stores, an employee asked about setting up a kitchen to sell breakfast to farmers.

As that business grew, lunch meals were added. As the Hohlbein children got older, Lenny said they suggested opening on the weekends, and he expanded into the bar and grill establishment, obtaining his beer license.

“After 20 years, we added a party room, and actually we were in the process of working on making a venue for up to 200 people in the back portion of the building...part of that back there was three stories tall, with open beams. My daughter was going to have her wedding there, so we were working on that. That’s where the fire started, I guess, was back there in the back,” Lenny said.

When asked what’s next, he said “I just don’t know. I would like to save the building. It might be an opportunity for somebody. The roof may be ok. But there’s a lot more to look at like the wiring, plumbing, the structure, like the back wall that was damaged. I am going to steam clean everything and see what we can get cleaned up first.

I appreciate all the support, all the calls and offers to help, especially for my employees. We’ll see.”

Small businesses in the Twin Cities share a comradery which has endured through an ice storm, a pandemic, floods, economic downturns and more.

The evidence of strength in numbers is never more apparent than when a close knit group bans together for one another, during the highs and lows of business, and everyday life.

A fundraiser has been organized to raise money for the staff of Lenny’s at Reed Brothers, through the sale of red ribbons to display on businesses or homes, doors, windows, mailboxes or lamp posts, as a show of support and solidarity from the Twin Cities and the surrounding communities.

The material and labor to create the red ribbons will be donated.

Proceeds will be contributed directly to Hohlbein for his staff, with ribbons available for $10 each.

Donations of any amount will be accepted. The red bows will be available at Two Doors Down, on Lake Street in Fulton.