Tallmadge, OH – “We’re back in business,” said John Barber, one day after an explosion in the laundry building of his Grotto Seafood and Steakhouse shook the Circle Dec. 5.

The Grotto, 10 Tallmadge Circle, was closed for only one day following the 8 a.m. explosion and subsequent fire which destroyed the entire building, 8 Southeast Ave.

No one was injured during the incident, which firefighters suspect was caused by a natural gas explosion. The building was empty at the time.

“It sounded like an airplane dropped on our roof,” Henry Bierce Co. employee David Denholm said of the explosion.

The building formerly housed the Robert Nickoson Financial Group Building and is situated between the Grotto and the Henry Bierce Co. on Southeast Avenue.

“The explosion was so loud, I jumped out of my chair,” Denholm said, adding, another Henry Bierce employee saw the roof suspended in the air and was the first to call 911.

Employees at Jubilee Donuts, 218 Tallmadge Circle, and residents who were on the Circle at the time of the explosion, reported feeling shockwaves.

“We felt a rumble at City Hall,” Public Service Director Dave Kline added.

According to Tallmadge Firefighter Mike Passarelli, firefighters were on the scene in 2 minutes.

The police department was on the scene within 30 seconds, Passarelli said.

“When the police department building shakes, they don’t wait for a call,” he added.

The Munroe Falls and Mogadore fire departments were also called in to help with the burning building.

Fire Chief Dennis Crossen said the fire was under control within 45 minutes.

Barber said he estimated the damage from the building to be “in excess of $200,000.”

“The entire laundry facility is a total loss,” he said.

A portion of Southeast Avenue was closed for about two hours Dec. 5 while city departments cleaned up the street and extinguished the fire.

“Glass was pushed into Southeast Avenue and cinder blocks flew about 20 feet from the building,” Passarelli said.

The force from the explosion was so intense it moved a 3,500-pound transformer from its base inside of the laundry building, he added.

While the cause of the explosion is still under investigation, Passarelli said it was most likely a natural gas explosion, as there were two gas appliances in the building.

“Fortunately, the fire didn’t spread and there is minor smoke damage to the surrounding buildings, including Famous Hair,” noted Crossen.

“The main thing is that nobody got hurt,” said Barber, adding, the two women scheduled to work in the laundry building that day were running late.

He said there are five employees in the housekeeping department and “hopefully everyone will be back to work soon and we’ll rebuild the laundry building.”

Until then, Barber said he hired a company to temporary launder the restaurant’s napkins and tablecloths.