Pictured Above: Following the flood, Centaur Forge’s Burlington, Wis., location was surrounded by water.
Unprecedented flooding ravaged Centaur Forge’s storefront in Burlington, Wis., but the forging community wouldn’t let them stay under water.
Bekki Baas has worked at Centaur Forge for more than 20 years, a constant and general manager through multiple store owners. The farrier and blacksmith supply shop, a town staple since 1965, is adjacent to the Fox River — but as long as Baas has worked there, flooding never has been a concern.
As rain fell Wednesday, July 12, 2017, Burlington was under flash flood warnings. An otherwise ordinary day, Baas was at the store as several customers shopped.
“We’ve never been flooded,” Baas says. “I didn’t believe it would happen. I’ve worked here for over 20 years and it’s never hit the building.”
According to Baas, the customers helped save the store as one of them insisted that it was going to flood.
“She was the one who said, ‘You’re going to flood, you need to get some sand bags.’”
While a Centaur Forge employee went to pick up sandbags, the customers at the store jumped to action, helping move products to higher shelves.
By 3:30 p.m., they had to evacuate.
“The water was coming in through the drains and everything like that, so we had to leave,” Baas says. “The building was already surrounded with water at that point but we got through and nobody was hurt — that was the best part.”
While the store was closed, Centaur Forge’s Austin, Texas, location handled all orders and phone calls.
Meanwhile, the community at the Burlington store continued to help. Baas was able to regain access Friday and call a cleanup company to assess the damage.
The entire building contained at least 2 feet of water — even deeper in low spots.
“Again, my employees here came through tenfold. They helped in every way possible,” Baas says.
They joined her to work throughout the weekend, aiming together to reopen Monday, July 17.
“It’s a matter of saying, ‘Hey, it’s a tragedy, but the best part is you get to find out what fantastic people you have around you.’ We’re a little messy, but hey, we did it.”
They successfully reopened that Monday, and since have continued to clean and rebuild. In the interim, the store’s community has continued to support Centaur Forge.
“I’ve never had so much kinship. In fact, when we were taking out some of the walls on that Monday, when we were trying to take down the drywall and things like that in the office, I had customers helping do some of the demolition work.”
The vendors have been understanding and supportive as well.
“Everyone sends their best wishes, they’re asking me, ‘Are you ready for this shipment? Can you take it? We heard you guys got flooded.’ They’re trying to make sure they can help us the best they can.”
Reopened and looking forward, Baas says Centaur Forge isn’t going anywhere.
“We plan on being here for at least another hundred years. I won’t be the manager at that point,” Baas jokes. “But it’s a really unique business and our customers and vendors and everyone are so fantastic. This flood will not deter us.”