LORAIN — While no one was hurt in an Aug. 18 fire on the city’s south side, members of a longstanding motorcycle club lost more than just their clubhouse early that morning.
Fire broke out at Dirt and Grime MC’s clubhouse at Lexington Avenue and West 25th Street shortly before 7 a.m. two weeks ago.
Roughly 80 percent of the building was destroyed by the fire, smoke and water damage, but members are looking to rebuild, while sifting through the memories and lost memorabilia, president James “Q-Ball” Butts said.
“We lost 53 years of history, good and bad history,” he said. “It’s a lot of history that we can’t replace, and a lot of the guys that do have some history there are gone (themselves).”
The cause of the fire is under investigation, according to the Lorain Fire Department. Butts said the fire started outside the house, but he doesn’t want to speculate a cause or give into drama on Facebook following the incident.
“We really don’t know what happened,” Butts said. “We were there the night before, we were hanging out; it’s a club. We all went home at different times, the last person left there at 3:30 a.m., and that’s all we know until … we got phone calls that the house is on fire.”
Dirt and Grime is the oldest motorcycle club in the county, formed 53 years ago by a group of Vietnam veterans. It moved into the house on Lexington Avenue roughly 40 years ago, after renting spaces throughout the city. Lost in the fire were ashes of members, funeral ribbons and a custom L-shaped bar, made by a former member, with signatures and carvings from anyone who passed through the club’s doors.
One item that was damaged but salvageable was the club’s insignia — a garbage can with wings — that hung above the bar. The 16ﾽ-foot long logo was built piece-by-piece by old members in the 1960s and ’70s. The group plans to restore it, and rebuild the space, while creating “new history” to hang on the walls.
“That was one of the things I liked about the club the most was the can and wings and that bar,” he said. “It’s the first thing you notice when you came in the clubhouse.”
Many of the men in the club are tradesmen, Butts said, so they plan to do the work themselves — something the club has been doing since moving into the house. Any additions or work on the property were done by members, not contractors, funded through donations and dues. The group is a staple in the neighborhood, and they have no plans to move following the fire.
Unfortunately, the group’s insurance lapsed during a change in leadership, Butts said. Now, the club is stuck with an estimated $40,000 in repairs.
“The neighbors are all coming to us, ‘We don’t want to see you guys leave,’” he said. “The neighborhood loves us because we kind of keep the riff-raff down. They just respect us and it stays quiet over there. The whole insurance thing is just stopping us right now, but we will rebuild.”
Due to the age of the house, built in 1900 according to the Lorain County Auditor, the group will have to bring the house up to current codes while rebuilding, which will add to the repair costs.
Despite the fire, the club will have its annual corn roast 4 p.m. Saturday outside the clubhouse. The family-friendly event is open to the public with a $5 donation at the door. Other clubs have donated port-a-potties and hand-wash stations, and a DJ is donating his time.
Since the fire, Butts said, individuals from clubs outside Ohio have reached out and plan to attend the roast, remembering the house from when they passed through years ago.
“We usually get 12 dozen (ears of corn),” Butts said. “I already had to double the order this year, I’m at 12 dozen this year and it’s probably going to grow more. I’ve got people from different states reaching out to me that I don’t even know who they are. They’re friends of old members, friends of friends of (members) … and they move out of state and they have memories there, they made memories there. People I’ve never met in my life. … I’ve got clubs that I’ve never even talked to, like way out east and different parts of Ohio reaching out to us.”
Eddie’s Club Bar, 1433 Lowell St., is hosting a benefit cookout for Dirt and Grime at 1 p.m. Oct. 14. Also a family-friendly event, there are plans for a DJ, raffle and other entertainment. Owner Eddie Sabbah hosts benefits in the bar often and is donating the food for the event. Donations for raffles, including gift cards or certificates, are needed, alongside monetary donations for the club. For more information on how to help Dirt and Grime, email Butts at jimmy email@example.com.
“It’s just going to be a long time in replacing everything, and I got pretty much a young crew down there now, younger generation,” he said. “So we’re going to make a new history down there.”