The Mayor of Steinbach is calling it a big loss for the community. Earl Funk is referring to the devastating fire that destroyed a strip mall in downtown Steinbach.

Funk says he was out on his yard during the afternoon of July 10th when he saw the smoke coming from Main Street. His initial thought was, 'what is on fire, what are we losing today?' By the time Steinbach residents would go to sleep that night, the strip mall at the corner of Main Street and Friesen Avenue was nothing more than a pile of smoldering debris. 

"It's such a big loss for our community, our downtown and the business community and it's always devastating," says Funk, who can relate to the loss, having experienced a fire at his business just over 10 years ago. "When a person loses what they are known for, it was devastating, I went to a very dark place for the next six months after that."

Funk says it has been heartwarming to see the outpouring of generosity to those who suffered great loss in the fire. He notes it gives him great faith to know there are volunteer firefighters in Steinbach and area willing to donate days of their time in order to make sure the fire was out and the neighbouring structures were secure. 

For Funk, that strip mall held decades worth of memories. He recalls the days when Penner Merit was in that building and not only could you buy sporting equipment but they also sold guns.

"You could buy a gun right off the shelf," he remembers. "That's not available anymore."

He also recalls that building turning from a Penner Foods to a Stylerite and frequently purchasing clothes there. 

The strip mall still lies in a pile of rubble, but already, Funk is optimistic that a new building will eventually occupy that space. 

"I believe they will rebuild and you will see a beautiful brand new building here in time," he adds. "And I believe that the businesses will come back."

The mall was home to Janzen's Paint and Decorating, Best West Pet Foods, H & R Block, Investia Financial Services, Liberty Counselling Centre and Steinbach's Flooring Canada. Funk says it would be wonderful if these six businesses would stay on Main Street, noting they are a great draw for shoppers and help to create a vibrant downtown.