Posted 7/05/16 (Tue)
By Neal A. Shipman
A landmark Watford City restaurant, TJ’s Pizza & Suds, located on the south side of the city, was destroyed by fire on Wednesday, June 29.
According to Phil Riely, Watford City fire chief, the fire department, which battled the blaze for nearly four hours, responded to the fire at approximately 11:39 p.m. Wednesday evening.
“We had fire trucks and 15 firemen on the scene until 3:30 a.m. on Thursday,” stated Riely. “When we arrived, the building was not entirely engulfed in flames, but fire was showing.”
While Riely stated that the cause of the blaze will not be known until the State Fire Marshall inspects the building, he thought the fire originated in the west side of the restaurant.
“We expect the Fire Marshall will be inspecting the building on Thursday, June 30,” stated Riely. “We won’t know the cause of the fire until after the inspection is completed.”
TJ’s Pizza, which was built by Ben and Carolyn Dekker in 1976, was the first pizza business to open in Watford City. The business was sold to Todd, Judy and Roland Dahl in 1981, and then to Ricky and Anna Marquardt on Jan. 1, 2010.
For Anna Marquardt, the fire proved to be a devastating loss to her, her husband, and to their staff.
“I’m so lost right now,” stated Marquardt, as she sat outside the burned shell of her former business. “This was like our second home. I have no idea of what we’re going to do.”
According to Marquardt, she suspects that it looks like the fire started near the furnace room and office on the west side of the structure.
“One of Foley Towing employees stepped out of their shop behind TJ’s to see why they had lost water pressure,” stated Marquardt. “He saw smoke coming from the four corners of the building and called the fire department.”
Marquardt was initially alerted to the trouble at her business, when a representative of their security system provider called her to say that a window had been broken.
“About 10 minutes later, at 11:38 p.m. one of my former employees who lives behind TJ’s texted me to say that the building was on fire,” stated Marquardt.
While Marquardt says that she had insurance coverage on the building, it is too early for her to say what her plans for the future will be.
“We’re going to find out what kind of insurance coverage we had,” stated Marquardt. “It’s possible that we may look at rebuilding.”
As one of the city’s more popular restaurants, Julie Grotte, TJ’s manager, noted that two years ago, the business employed 36 employees. However with the slowdown in the oilfield and workers moving away, the staff had been reduced to five employees.
“This was the biggest fire that our department has responded to all year,” stated Steve Sanford, assistant fire chief. “It’s too bad that we lost another restaurant in Watford City. We need more restaurants in town, not less.”