A fire overnight damaged several businesses on Valparaiso's north side. | Amy Lavalley for the Post-Tribune
Updated: July 30, 2013 7:29AM
VALPARAISO — The free smells emanating from the Jimmy John’s sandwich shop on North Calumet Avenue on Wednesday weren’t toasting sandwiches, but the burned exterior of the building.
The sandwich shop at 3125 Calumet Ave., as well as four other businesses in a strip mall near the Valparaiso Family YMCA, received smoke and water damage after a fire late Tuesday night, but an investigator with the Valparaiso Fire Department said the shops are still structurally sound.
The Valparaiso Police Department got an initial call about an activated burglar alarm around 11 p.m. Tuesday at Fagen Pharmacy in the strip mall. While officers determined the alarm was accidental, according to a police report, they smelled smoke in the area.
They stuck around and, around 11:30 p.m., noticed the Jimmy John’s sign was arcing and sparking and contacted the fire department, at which point the sign caught fire.
“It was either heat from the light or wiring,” said Dan Lamb, assistant chief and investigator with the fire department.
Firefighters were on the scene until 4:30 a.m. Wednesday morning. Nobody was in any of the businesses at the time of the fire, and nobody was injured.
Jimmy John’s appears to have taken the brunt of the damage. In all, Lamb said there were five businesses in the strip mall, which also included the pharmacy; Orthopedic and Balance Therapy Specialists; JD Crepe Company; and Coolwood Cleaners.
The structure can be saved, Lamb said, though the interiors of the shops have extensive water and soot damage.
“There was no fire inside the building at all. Everything we see is inside the soffit area,” he said.
That was good news for Bruce Dawson, who opened the Jimmy John’s franchise five years ago. He also owns franchises at 1608 E. Lincolnway, and in Chesterton, LaPorte and Portage.
Visiting the scene Wednesday morning, he agreed it looked as though the fire started from the sandwich shop’s sign.
“The sign has gone out and we’ve repaired it, normal stuff like that,” he said.
The shop employed 15 people. Dawson hoped to shift them to his other shops until the one on North Calumet can open again.
“We’re happy with our business here and want to get it open as soon as possible,” Dawson said. “It’s just a blip; we’ll get through it.”