IOWA DERECHO 2020

Owner of NewBo furniture store compares 2008 flood damage to Iowa derecho

Warehouse loses third of its roof in derecho storm

The showroom is being dried after roof damage caused a leak at Bills Brothers Furniture in Cedar Rapids, shown on Tuesda
The showroom is being dried after roof damage caused a leak at Bills Brothers Furniture in Cedar Rapids, shown on Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
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Mike Bills has been here before, only this time it is much more significant and personal.

The owner of Bills Bros Furniture and Liquidators — the 48-year-old furniture store at 303 Eighth Ave. SE, the crossroads of downtown Cedar Rapids and the NewBo District — was locked inside a northeast Cedar Rapids business when the massive derecho storm on Aug. 10 damaged his store.

“It took a third of our main store warehouse roof off and we had some extra leaks that allowed rain to come into our showroom floor,” Bills said Monday. “It’s just a mess.”

No employees or customers were in the store, which is open Tuesday through Saturday.

As with many others, Bills also sustained damage to his home from the derecho.

“We lost part of an addition and two large trees,” he said. “It looks like a bomb went off in the back.”

Bills also is helping his daughter, who recently graduated from Mount Mercy University, handle the resulting damage from the loss of part of her apartment building roof.

“It set off the sprinklers in her apartment,” Bills said. “Unlike 2008, we have had a trio of stuff to deal with this time. All are repairable and there are worse things.

“A lot of people on the northeast side were hammered far worse than we were.”

In the June 2008 flood, 11 feet of water blew out a wall and filled Bills Bros showroom and warehouse. It destroyed $750,000 worth of inventory, plus a relatively new forklift and cardboard compactor.

Within three weeks, the retailer opened a temporary store in Town and Country Shopping Center. Six months were needed to make repairs to the downtown showroom and warehouse.

This time around, Bills is hoping to reopen by this coming weekend, if conditions permit.

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“I still have electrical lines down as well as no phones or internet,” he said. “Fortunately we are all still living and it could have been much worse.”

When Bills Bros sustained serious damage in 2008, Mike’s brother, Bill Bills Jr., worked with him to get the store repaired and reopened.

Bill Bills, who was co-owner of the business started in 1972 by their father, William Bills Sr., died in August 2016.

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