Back from a blaze
7 months after fire, Maintenance Plus plans open house
By Mark Sherry
This is what met Maintenance Plus owner Dan Vorpahl when he arrived as his business on Aug. 26, 2015. It took six months but the business is now fully restored and ready to host an open house on April 1 to show its improved shop (below). The beam along the roof line in the photo below had to be reinforced after being damaged in the fire.

Dan Vorpahl has put in a lot of hours for a lot of years at his Maintenance Plus business in New Holstein, so he certainly deserved to take off early on Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2015 to spend some time at home with family and friends.

That relaxation time was cut short when he received a phone call at home— the kind of phone call no business owner wants to get.

His business was on fire.

Vorpahl said he could see the smoke rising in the air from five miles away. As he rushed to get to the scene, he said he expected the building to be burned to the ground by the time he got there.

The fire which started while welding was being done on a trailer quickly spread to the shop portion of the building. In part because of quick response by employees and local firefighters, however, the fire—though still serious—was extinguished before it spread any further.

“Number one, nobody got hurt,” Vorpahl said as he spoke about the incident more than six months later. “Our files, office, and inventory were intact.”

Six months to rebuild

It has taken all of these six months to rebuild and restore the facility at 2401 Plymouth St. as the final sign-off on the work just occurred March 1. Throughout the process, however, the staff of Maintenance Plus remained undeterred. “We worked through it with an open roof and extension cords,” Vorpahl said, pointing out that air lines became hoses on the floor instead of the convenient overhead set-up the technicians had been using. “Nothing came easy,” Dan said. “It gets frustrating when you’re used to doing things a certain way.” “But we kept at it,” wife and officer manager Dianne added.

“The decision never came to mind to not rebuild,” Dan said. Maintenance Plus has been at that location for 18 years and has become well known among operators of semi trucks and trailers, heavy machinery, and recreational vehicles as the place to go for repairs and maintenance on that equipment. The Vorpahls pointed out how many area customers and local businesses reached out to them following the fire to offer their support in any way they could. “It just meant so much,” Dan said.

Repairing the shop was still a big project, but one made easier by the fast reaction of Acuity Insurance and Chilton agent Deb Bohn of Sohrweide Insurance. She was on the scene within an hour. “Your insurance is as good as what you pay for,” Dan said. “I cannot stress that enough. They were like a guardian angel.”

Clean-up began the following week. Technicians worked for about three weeks without lights in the shop area.

Cleaning up and repairing

Upon the recommendation of Acuity, Damage Control of Milwaukee was contracted to replace two walls, replace half the roof, and reinforce one of the main steel structure beams which was damaged in the fire. Insulation throughout the building was removed and replaced. Everything was hand washed, then pressure washed, then painted. A crew of about eight people came in to hand wash every single part, tool and nook and cranny of the building.

A silver lining to the fire is the fact that the Maintenance Plus shop is better than it was prior to the fire, Dan said. Every-thing was done up to current building codes, of course, and the insulation in the shop was improved greatly.

Perhaps the biggest improvement is the addition of a new air quality system which does a much better job dispelling the gas and diesel emissions from the shop. New lighting also was installed throughout the shop area, and other equipment was replaced as necessary.

Through it all, Maintenance Plus’ technicians and other employees worked through some challenging times. “They were phenomenal,” Dianne said. “Even the day of the fire they stuck around to do whatever they could do.”

Service Manager Steve Krebsbach and technicians Brian Krebsbach and Glen Fox bring many years of experience to the shop at Maintenance Plus.

Not skipping a beat

Dan said Maintenance Plus’ local and regular customers quickly became aware of what had happened, but the business did not skip a beat with the outside trucking world as internet service was restored the night of the fire. About 60 percent of the Vorpahls’ business is trucking as it owns 11 semis and 40 trailers. Dan said they only do trucking in Wisconsin and specialize in short hauls or shuttling, often for major cheese brands. Recent expansions by virtually all the area cheese companies have been good news for Dan Vorpahl Transit.

To celebrate the completion of the restoration process and the fact that Maintenance Plus is still operating in New Holstein, an open house is scheduled for Friday, April 1 from 5 to 8 p. m. The public is invited to come up to see the refurbished shop area.

Maintenance Plus continues to do in-shop and roadside repairs of semis, trailers, recreational vehicles, and other large equipment. Most of the roadside service trips are in the four-county area around New Holstein.

Maintenance Plus is certified to do annual Wisconsin Department of Transportation inspections for semi operators. They are equipped to do air conditioning work on trucks and trailers, and also do roof repairs on trailers.

Word-of-mouth advertising has even created some work for Maintenance Plus at Elkhart Lake’s Road America as technicians have been called down there to repair motor homes and campers for race fans.

In other words, things are back to normal for the Vorpahls’ 28 full-and part-time employees—after a very abnormal last six months.

To learn more about the business go to www.maintenanceplus. biz.