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Eight months after its fire, Culvers is back
Culvers ribbon-cutting
Culvers owner Bruce Kroll cuts the ribbon during the Platteville Regional Chamber ribbon-cutting, three weeks after the store reopened after it was closed and reconstructed after the November 2013 fire. Also in the picture are co-owners Caroline Kroll and Dick and Joan Adams.

The eighth-oldest Culver’s Restaurant had a ribbon-cutting for its brand new building Monday morning.

The Platteville Regional Chamber ribbon-cutting, three weeks after the store reopened June 16, came eight months after the Nov. 15 fire destroyed the original building.

Owner Bruce Kroll hadn’t planned on a new store, given that “we just spent $400,000 on a remodeling” of the interior two years before the fire.

The owners ended up building a much larger store based on the design of the Reedsburg Culver’s. ½

“You don’t see them in the state of Wisconsin, because there’s more of them,” said Kroll. “We took the biggest design Culver’s had and added a little bit more to it. From the point that the fire started we started looking at plans immediately.”

“It was like everybody’s breath sucked in,” said chamber executive director Kathy Kopp after news of the fire got out. “The first question was obviously is everyone OK. The second question was are they going to rebuild.”

“When this fire happened, that’s devastating,” said Culver’s CEO Craig Culver. “Just like the tornado, it’s only a building, you can replace those things; you can’t replace people. And Bruce stood by those workers.”

During the eight months between the fire and the reopening, Kroll continued to pay his employees, some of whom worked at the Dubuque Culver’s Kroll owns.

“We do have the other store, and we took it out of the profits for us,” he said. “Our profits were covered [by insurance], so we still had money coming in; we took that and paid the employees.

“I really didn’t intend for this to get out, but the chain got hold of it.”

“The chain” ultimately refers to Culver, who said to employees, pointing to Kroll, “It all starts with this guy right there. … That shows leadership.”

“You make us proud every day, with every guest who walks into this place,” Culver told employees. “You make a difference with so many people.”

Culver said the Culver’s corporate office got calls asking if Kroll would rebuild.

“They referred to it as ‘their’ Culver’s, and that’s pretty neat when someone takes ownership of our place,” he said.

Kroll has owned the Platteville Culver’s for 19 of the 21 years it’s been open.

“It starts with Craig — he genuinely cares about us, each individual store, and I think that spreads down to the store level,” said Kroll. “You’ve got to be passionate about what you’re doing, and that’s definitely the case.”

“I rave about our people, because we do have great people,” said Culver. “They can make a difference, not only with each other, but with anybody who walks in — they can make somebody’s day better.”

While Kroll checked out one different location “just out of curiosity,” the store was rebuilt at its original location, 375 E. Business 151, with parking added by pushing the store backward to the southernmost edge of the lot.

In addition to state-of-the-art equipment and a sprinkler system covering all of the building, the new store features 100-percent LED lighting inside and outside the building.

“That was an option we definitely wanted,” said Kroll. “The up-front cost was quite huge, but in the long run it should pay for itself.”

The store also has more employees than it had before the fire — 62, more than the usual 40 to 45, because of business since the reopening.

“I’m excited to be getting back to business as usual,” said Kroll.