DEXTER, MO (KFVS) - Once a staple of small town America, many local storefronts across the country now stand empty.
When a fire ripped through downtown Dexter last year, it was a blow to not only the store owners, but the local economy.
The doors are now back open at one of the stores hardest hit by that fire.
Just six months after Brian Crawford opened his store "The Loft" in downtown Dexter it was burned to the ground. But he's worked tirelessly to rebuild, quite literally, from the ground up.
Rewind to nearly a year ago and the scene in downtown Dexter was drastically different.
"Out of nowhere. Just flames and the glass breaking," said Brian Crawford one year ago when the fire happened.
But today, only small signs of that devastating fire remain.
"We even left you can see where the fire burned here a little bit and over here too on this back wall," Crawford said. "And on warm days back in the summer you could still smell the smoke up here; I guess where it was in the bricks or whatever when it was kind of humid."
Nine months after that fire destroyed "The Loft," store owner Brian Crawford reopened at the same location.
"It takes the wind out of you but it's one of those things," he said. "I love challenges. I love projects and once you start planning the new building you shovel all that behind you and we just went forward."
He said it wasn't really a conscious choice to rebuild. An outpouring of community support gave him the push he needed to start over.
"You know just everybody said 'Oh you've got to. I remember going there as a kid.' And I'm not a local so saw how important these two buildings were to everyone in Dexter and I just felt I had to," Crawford said.
With basically just a front facade to work with, Crawford completely rebuilt right where the original building stood since the 1880s.
A pair of stained glass windows are one of the few surviving pieces, and they hang next door. Yet in the face of adversity, he's managed to keep a positive attitude about the whole experience.
"You know, yes it was a fire, but it allowed me to bring something so much better to our town," he said.
Since the reopening in August, Crawford said he and the staff haven't thought much of the devastating fire, but it affects them in subtle ways.
"With this weather there's a few people that have started burning wood in this area and you'll get to sniffing and smelling. It's just one of those things and we are a little paranoid sometimes," Crawford said.
He said the shop installed a state of the art security system to help prevent future fires.
The silver lining is the fire actually created more awareness about what downtown Dexter has to offer, and several stores now see new business as a result.