Corbell Electronics: One Year After Carterville Fire


By Hilary LeHew
By Randy Livingston

CARTERVILLE -- It was a year ago Tuesday that a massive fire destroyed part of downtown Carterville.

The fire started around 6 p.m.  inside Corbell Electronics. More than 100 firefighters and other emergency personnel from 18 agencies responded to the call. The fire spread to a second building that Denny Corbell also owned as well as the Create-a-Smile Thrift Shop next door.
Just days after the fire, the future of Corbell's business was hazy. Now, the direction of Corbell Electronics is clear and could be followed by a new business in downtown Carterville.
Walk down Division Street and you'll find a reminder of the massive fire that claimed Corbell's business in a matter of hours. That fire wiped out Corbell's electronic store and the old bakery he owned.
"This building could be reused with just putting a roof on it," said Corbell as he pointed to the top of the old bakery building.
Days after the fire, Corbell moved his office into a temporary location across the street and worked to rebuild his customer database.
"We had our computer network backed up to other computers but not offsite," he said. "Nobody ever thought about a total loss."
Multiple inspections later, Corbell says they still have no idea what sparked the electrical fire and probably never will.
"I guess you could say it was so badly burned that we know where, and we probably know why, but not what caused it," said Corbell.
Whatever it was, it didn't stop Corbell from reaching his 50th year in business. Last week, Corbell Electronics moved from 113 South to 113 North Division Street in the old Heckel's furniture building.
"I knew it was more space than we needed, but it was the right price and the right place. I wanted to stay downtown," Corbell added.
Business is good as Corbell continues to pick through the charred electronics and customer files. For Corbell, the hardest part is losing most of the antiques he acquired through the years.
"I had 50 years of electronic's history from the very first video recorder that was introduced in the United States, through every model that was ever manufactured," he explained.
What was once two steps back for Corbell, could soon be leaps forward for the community of Carterville as Corbell's old space becomes a window of opportunity.
"The guy that's really interested in it is going to build an office building, so we're looking forward to that here soon," he said.
Corbell's long-term goal in the new location includes putting a display of the building's history in the front window. He says the building is 150 years old and was built around a walk-in safe from the old Elles Store Company.


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