Contributed Photo | Russell Reeves
Town of Liberty Councilman Russell Reeves supplied this photo of the early-morning fire Tuesday in Liberty.
Story by Eli Ruiz
LIBERTY January 17, 2014 A fire early Tuesday morning in Liberty heavily damaged the third floor of a building at 9 South Main St. in Liberty.
The structure’s third floor housed the Untouchables Boxing Club, while Kennedy Fried Chicken was on the first floor.
The call came in at 5:51 a.m. and in addition to Liberty, the Monticello, Swan Lake and White Sulphur Springs departments responded while Livingston Manor was on standby.
Asked the extent of the damage, building owner Peter Belgard of Belgard Realty in Monticello told the Democrat yesterday, “Other than the photos I’ve been sent I haven’t actually seen it as I’m currently away in [the state of] Florida. Apparently, though, the fire originated on the third floor of the building and burned through the roof. I know that there was an investigator on-site yesterday and from what I’ve been told they don’t suspect anything suspicious.”
Belgard further related that his insurance company had a “cause and effect expert” at the site, and though the investigation into the fire is ongoing, early findings seem to tie its origin to a third floor coffee pot that “may or may not have been left on overnight.”
“I purchased the building three years ago as a vacant bank foreclosure,” added Belgard. “I brought four new businesses to Liberty and that was something I was very proud of. I had two additional spaces I was looking forward to filling… this is all very disheartening.’
Asked about his plans, Belgard said, “Yes, I’m likely to rebuild.”
Untouchables Boxing Club founder and owner Jose Toledo is devastated.
“My feelings are overwhelming me right now,” he said. “This hurts bad. I spent every free minute at the gym and the calls from the kids have been just as overwhelming. I got a call from one of our 5-year-olds who was just hysterical crying, and one of our 8-year-olds actually called in wanting to help us rebuild… the kids are obviously very upset.”
He added, “I literally lost everything. I feel like I lost my whole life in boxing. We’d just finished installing a $1,600 surround sound system in there. We had TVs and about 60 percent of my boxing memorabilia collection is gone.”
Toledo said he had financed the venture largely, as he said, “out of my own pocket,” and had recently taken on a second job to help finance even more growth.
“I feel like we created something very special here in Liberty. We created a true family atmosphere where everybody got to know, respect and felt comfortable with each other. This collaborative atmosphere was crucial to our members’ training and it was just a special place to many. I’ve done a lot of different things in life as far as work and the such, but no matter what I’ve done in life it’s always come back to boxing… it’s always been my focus and I just can’t see myself doing anything else.”
Born and raised in Liberty, and having gotten his start in boxing at the age of 5, Toledo says that the progress the club had made since its inception was only “a small part of what we were trying to build here.”
“We were looking to grow this thing,” he explained. “We were looking to bring in boxing events and give businesses in Liberty the opportunity to vend and make some money here.”
Toledo says he will carry on.
“I’m far from done with this, he offered. “We will rebuild in Liberty but after this situation I’m obviously looking to relocate [to a different area location].”