Smokehouse owner vows to rebuild after a weekend fire destroyed his East Olympia business
Johnson’s Smokehouse owner Ron Johnson acknowledged Monday that he’s been on an emotional roller coaster since his East Olympia business burned late Saturday night.
“I go up and down,” he said, sometimes feeling sick to his stomach, or finding himself in tears about what happened.
But when asked about whether the business will live on, Johnson, 63, didn’t miss a beat.
“You’re darn tootin’ it will live on,” he said Monday. “And it will be stronger than it ever was.”
East Olympia Fire District 6 was dispatched to the 8300 block of Diagonal Road Southeast just before midnight Saturday.
Assistant fire chief Mark Nelson said when firefighters arrived, the fire was well underway and flames were showing through the roof of the main structure. The Johnson home, which occupies the same property, was not damaged, he said.
Access to the property was a challenge for fire crews, Nelson said. Nelson described the building as “really compartmentalized,” so crews fought the fire defensively.
Johnson said his dog woke him up Saturday night and he looked out the window to see a fire truck’s red flashing lights. The flames were shooting high into the air, possibly 35 or 40 feet, he said. Johnson said he ran outside and did what he could to direct traffic.
“Those guys dumped over 200,000 gallons of water to stop it,” he said. “They did what they could for me; I can’t say enough.”
Although Johnson wants to rebuild, it’s not clear how long that will take. The business employed 29 people, he said.
One of the best-selling items at the 36-year-old business was a trail mix, made with smoked cheese bites, sausages and jerky. Frozen meat is shipped to his business, then smoked and turned into a variety of creations. Johnson said his products are distributed throughout the Northwest, including Alaska.
When Johnson was 14, he helped to clean up at Western Meats in Tumwater. He later went to work at Colonial Meats for several years (that now-closed business is the future site of the Lacey Food Bank) and then opened a side business in 1983 at his current location, cutting and wrapping meat with his wife, Sue, and his father, Dale, a former longtime Tumwater councilman.
Ron Johnson and his wife later opened a stall at the Olympia Farmers Market.
In 1998, they built a USDA-approved facility for processing smoked meats and cheeses, website information shows.
“We’re fighters,” he said. “We started from nothing and we will be back.”