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Published April 19, 2012, 09:26 PM

Businesses Bounced Back After '97 Flood

GRAND FORKS (WDAZ-TV) - Some business owners who fought rising waters during the flood of 1997 fought even harder to keep their businesses in downtown Grand Forks.

GRAND FORKS (WDAZ-TV) - Some business owners who fought rising waters during the flood of 1997 fought even harder to keep their businesses in downtown Grand Forks.

The aftermath 15 years ago was devastating, but several businesses are still in the same locations they were in before that fateful spring.

"Complete loss, complete loss. I don't know how else to say it," Velkommen owner Rochelle Wetsch said.

Wetsch has owned Velkommen for 27 years but a morning in 1997 would change everything.

"Got a call from the city and it was around 3 or 3:30 in the morning that they lost downtown Grand Forks and of course I thought it was a bad dream," Wetsch said.

As floodwaters rushed through the streets and into the downtown buildings, her business dreams were crushed.

"What happened down here was just devastating. I lost everything and I went from no debt to debt and took out a small business loan and a small city grant," Wetsch said.

Wetsch contemplated relocating her business, as did many who had their buildings downtown, including Caulfield Studios owner Kent Caulfield, who brought his family back to Detroit Lakes during the devastation.

"We were just looking at the fires wondering, "OK, is it going to burn, is it going to be gone, what's going to happen after?'" Caulfield said.

As the water slowly receded and cleanup ensued, some were still skeptical to bring their business back to the downtown area.

"A lot of people were negative about relocating downtown and I think it was the scope of the devastation," Wetsch said.

Some owners decided downtown will always be the place to call their "business home." And everytime people like Wetsch look at the flood wall, it gives them hope that another 1997 spring will never happen again.

"Downtown has definitely been rebuilt with a nod to history and an eye for the future," Wetsch said.

"Really the buildings are pretty much all occupied and it's really vibrant, a lot of people downtown, so downtown is a place to be," Caulfield said.

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