Historic shoe store destroyed by suspicious fire
MIAMI — A suspicious fire destroyed a building on Tuesday that was home to one of Miami's oldest business and its 103-year-old owner said she hasn't ruled out reopening the celebrated shoe store.
Ander's Shoe Store has been a staple in northeast Oklahoma for 88 years and a fixture on the community's thoroughfare for 82 years.
“I am just taking one day at a time,” said Dena Ander, who has worked six days a week at the store since she was 15 years old.
Joe Ander started the shoe store in 1930 as a shoe repair business with his daughter Dena. By 1936, Ander's Shoes moved to its present spot, about two blocks from the historical Coleman Theatre.
“She is amazing,” said Miami Fire Chief Robert Wright. “She is a rock.”
Phyllis Essex, 67, who has been with the shoe store for 42 years, and Shirley Shelton, 75, who has been working for Ander 32 years, were at Ander's side Tuesday morning watching as firefighters sifted through the charred remains.
Blackened shoeboxes stacked on top of each other were visible to many of the spectators who stopped by to lend a hand or offer words of encouragement to Ander.
It's been a rough week on Ander, but her friends say the centenarian is doing well.
The shoe store had been broken into twice since July 6 and on Monday morning Ander found a 2-foot-long black snake in her bathtub.
“Due to the two break-ins and the fire, we called the state fire marshal to see if there is a connection,” Wright said.
A fire inspector is investigating.
Wright said a passing motorist called in the fire around 2:33 a.m. after seeing what they thought was smoke in the window,” Wright said.
Thirty-one firefighters from the Miami Fire Department and the Quapaw Fire Department were on the scene for several hours.
Wright said shortly after firefighters arrived at the scene, the roof collapsed. “It was a total loss.”
Wright said although the brick building was old, it passed the last fire inspection, and Ander had kept the building up to code.
"We don't know if the fire and the burglaries are connected — but it's all under investigation,' said Miami Police Chief Thomas Anderson.
Anderson said around $100 was taken in the two break-ins.
During the first break-in, Ander's keys were stolen. Authorities think the thieves used the stolen keys to gain entrance into the shop for the second break-in.
Anderson said investigators are gathering surveillance video from area stores in hopes of finding the culprits.