Stiefelmeyer Building damaged in severe storm

A leaning power pole is seen in the alley behind The National (formerly known as Dreher's); the damage occurred during an unexpected storm around 1:50 a.m. Friday, April 28, 2023. (Cayla Grace Murphy)

CULLMAN, Ala. – The Stiefelmeyer Building and surrounding area were damaged during an unexpected severe storm in the early morning hours of Friday, April 28, 2023. About one-third of the roof and building debris were blown away, vehicles were damaged and a power pole in the alley between First and Second Avenues Southeast was splintered.

Michael Locascio and Garrett Masters, owners of The National (formerly known as Dreher’s), said the damage was mostly caused from flying debris from other areas of the roof and renovation materials, but likely won’t affect typical business.

“It was not good, but it could have been much worse for us, so we’re very blessed for that. The big kicker for us is the power pole. It pretty much snapped it in half,” said Masters.

Locascio noted that, at the time of our interview, damage assessments were still being done, but he remained hopeful of maintaining the business’ soft opening date of Wednesday, May 3, 2023. “We won’t know until Monday. The opening is supposed to be Wednesday,” he laughed.

Edgar Veigl, whose family resides in the building, said the real shock was how quickly the storm came and passed, and the extent of the damage in such a short time frame, with both the family’s vehicles damaged significantly.

“There was no warning; there was no severe weather even forecasted,” he said. “It woke us up, we grabbed our daughter, headed to our storm room and then halfway down the stairs, the building felt like it was trembling. By the time we made it to the storm room, it was over. We’ve been through much worse, obviously, but no one was hurt and we’re just thankful. We can repair the buildings, can repair the cars, we’re just fortunate and thankful we’re OK.”

Margo’s Antiques and Gifts seemed to bear the brunt of the damage. Vice President Bryan Messersmith said damage occurred to all three of its buildings.  “They’ll be able to patch today, but we’ve gotten the process started with insurance to begin repairs.”

Messersmith said that, as a small business owner, it’s just one of those things that come with business. “It’s not the first time something like this has happened. It’s not easy sometimes, but it’s just things you have to deal with and keep going.”

Assessments continue, so the total damages in dollars is not yet known. The building, which entered the National Register of Historic Places in 1983, is a significant piece of Cullman history, given that it bears the distinctive characteristics of wood-framed construction and Italianate styling that typified the first generation of nonresidential buildings in Cullman.

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