TWIN FALLS – Susan Buhler never thought her week would include spraying Easter Bunny costume heads with Febreze.
Buhler knows that sounds ridiculous. But just talking about it brings smiles and laughter, which she says will get her through the tough road ahead.
“Smiling gets you through faster than crying,” she said. “It’s the only way to be.”
On Tuesday morning, the alarm went off at his Main Street West business, Poindexter’s Costumes and Novelty Shop. For the past 23 years, Buhler has helped transform people into superheroes, gorillas, clowns, witches, princesses and more.
When the text from the alarm company arrived, she didn’t think about it, but then she realized her camera system wasn’t working.
“I said to the company, I said, ‘Disregard. I’m going to go out there and see what happens,” she told the Times-News. “When I was coming down, that’s when I saw the flames.”
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A massive structural fire had engulfed the building of Radio Rondevoo, Buhler’s neighbor.
Now all affected owners are trying to process their losses and look to the future.
“You never think this is your building,” said Eve Collins, owner of Eve and the Outlaw Bail Bonds.
Collins was in Boise for a medical appointment when one of her employees called and asked if she knew why authorities were warning people to avoid downtown.
“Yes, I saw it online and, of course, I had a breakdown,” she said. “It was very sad, part of Twin Falls is gone.”
The Idaho State Fire Marshal’s Office has found no definitive cause for the fire that destroyed the Radio Rondevoo Event Center. The office said the fire originated in the attic of the building.
Authorities wouldn’t allow Collins into her office, but she knows the smoke, water and flames were relentless.
A downtown office was one of her dreams and for the past six years she has relished every moment of it.
“I can go on,” she said. “I’m fine.”
She is considering renting a smaller space downtown and possibly downsizing it. She has a few full-time employees that she continued to pay after the fire.
“It’s not their fault,” she said. “They said, ‘Well, how do you do that?’ and I said, ‘It’s not really for you to worry about.’
“It’s an iconic building”
After the fire, Collins’ thoughts were not with his own business, but with his owner, Alex Castaneda, and his family.
“People asked what they could do,” she said. “They really need to reach out to the owners of the Mexican restaurant, the people who work there, Alex, the people who worked with Alex and Vanesa, his assistant. They are wonderful people.
The Castaneda family has transformed the historic building into an events center, hosting weddings, quinceañeras, baptisms, birthdays and concerts.
Built in 1940, the Radio Rondevoo building originally had a dance floor and stage downstairs with a large radio station upstairs, called KTFI.
“It’s an iconic building,” Collins said. “I had aunts and uncles who went there to dance.”
Every Saturday night, the radio station hosted “Live from the KTFI Ballroom,” which featured such big-name bands of the day as Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller and Lawrence Welk, the Times-News Previously reported.
In 1960, the building was sold to Western Broadcasting and the ballroom was converted into a skating rink.
Alex and his wife, Lupe, took over the property in 2010. Alex is a real estate agent with Blue Lakes Real Estate and also President and CEO of the South-Central Idaho Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
“Alex has done a lot of good things for the community. A lot,” Collins said. “He’s a very good man.”
The Castanedas provided the facility free of charge to nonprofits and churches hosting events or fundraisers.
“We work with people,” Alex told the Times-News in 2012. “It’s a place for different cultural events that we organize, not only for the Hispanic community; it is really necessary for everyone.
Lupe Castaneda can’t choose a favorite memory from her 12 years of ownership of Radio Rondevoo. And the loss of being able to create new memories is still fresh.
“Our youngest son is graduating and we can no longer hold his graduation party there,” she said tearfully. “And his prom was going to be there too because he’s going to Canyon Ridge. I can’t do that either. When we bought it, our boys were small. They grew up there, it was our second home.
Growing up in Blackfoot, her fondest childhood memories were at the Copacabana, a ballroom and roller rink. When she and her husband moved to Twin Falls, they realized a similar place didn’t exist locally.
“Music and partying are an integral part of our Latin community,” she said.
Over the years, his two sons had their first jobs at Radio Rondevoo and his nieces had their quinceaneras there. But the building was not just theirs.
“That place was the community building,” she said. “Radio Rondevoo belonged to the community, otherwise there would be no need to have Radio Rondevoo.”
She and her husband received countless text messages, phone calls and Facebook messages, all of which they read. Community members even stop them in public to share their memories.
“I got arrested at the grocery store yesterday,” she said. “A young Hispanic woman said to me, ‘Lupe, you don’t realize how important this building was, not only to the community, but also to us, the Latin community, because we were able to have a place where we could have our celebrations.
She directs community members who want to help other fire victims to a GoFundMe account for the owners of Tacos Villa, which also burned down. She said her husband would run his real estate business from another location, but Tacos Villa would be without income.
In addition to supporting their tenants, the Castanedas will reimburse anyone who has posted a deposit for an event. Lupe Castanedas said the building was booked for the rest of the year and part of 2023.
“It leaves a scar in the hearts of communities – I know that,” she said.
It’s still too early to tell if they will rebuild, but if any new details emerge, the family will share with the community. The family appreciates those who controlled the fire.
“The fact that no one was injured is huge for us,” Lupe said.
The future is still uncertain for many companies involved in the fire.
The Castanedas will move to 752 Addison Ave., the new headquarters of Alex Castaneda’s real estate business, his wife said.
Susan Buhler is still in limbo.
“At this point, everyone’s saying, ‘I don’t know until they do this, until they do that,'” Buhler said. not’ on the phone.”
Although her building suffered no fire damage, hours of water and smoke wreaked havoc.
Buhler has hired a restoration crew to help clean up and said she will know more about the condition of her building in the coming days.
“We can’t sell anything at full price at the moment, because everything must be somewhat damaged. Hopefully it won’t be too bad and we can get people some really good deals. Hot sale!” she laughed. “Tell everyone to watch this sale.”
The jokes are a way for her to cope, with the support of the community.
Both Buhler and Collins said they were overwhelmed by the number of messages and phone calls they received.
“I’ve been on the phone non-stop for the past two days,” Buhler told the Times-News Wednesday. “The audience was great.
All those who have good memories of Radio Rondevoo are invited to post photos on its Facebook page. The family hopes to keep the page alive to celebrate the years of smiles and laughter.