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Tacoma Pizza & Pipes Restaurant Lost in Fire
August 3, 1999

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A Sad Good-Bye to Tacoma Pizza & Pipes
PSTOS members share with Dick and Margaret Daubert the heartbreak of losing this memorable place, while finding consolation in recalling some of the good times we've all enjoyed there.
On Tuesday, August 3rd, the last remaining Puget Sound area restaurant featuring live pipe organ music burned, ending 24 years of enjoyment for local theatre organ aficionados, Puget Sound Theatre Organ Society members, and visitors from around the world.
News Tribune article - August 8, 1999
News Tribune article - October 14, 1999
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The fire began in a pizza oven heat duct in which grease had built up over many years. It made its way to an attic storage area where it became well established before being discovered. An employee noticed smoke coming from the area where the heat duct leaves the pizza oven, and after cutting the circuit breakers, he returned to find flames. He tried to put them out with a fire extinguisher but could not.
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The approximately 30 customers in the building heard the voice on the loudspeaker calmly instructing them to file out in an orderly fashion. The manager then checked all the bathrooms and other places people might be, having just enough time to get everybody out before the building filled with smoke.
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Plastic drink cups, melted from the intense heat, abandoned by patrons as they hurriedly exited the burning building
Fire Marshal Dave Dupille praised manager Lance Winchell for his excellent job of evacuating people. Dick Daubert was called to the scene from home. He was treated in an ambulance after catching a mouthful of smoke while trying to show firefighters a way to attack the flames. It was to no avail. The roof fell in. At that point the fire fighters had no choice but to "surround and drown."
The building is not salvageable. The damage is estimated to be $1 million.
The last song played on the organ was "My Heart Lives On" from Titanic. How appropriate! Sherrie Mael was playing.
Here, Sherrie is comforted by Dick Daubert as her husband, Tom, carries her music.
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Ron Hemmi, Tony Miller, Eric Shoemaker and Jack Laffaw help with the salvage efforts.
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Lance Winchell, General Manager, with Don Wallin, Eric Shoemaker and Dick Daubert, examine pipework.
The console is a complete loss, although the basic frame and shell might be restorable. Even though flames did not reach the pipe chamber, the intense heat penetrated the chamber glass and melted some of the metal pipes. Extensive water and smoke damage also affected most of the wood parts.
In the days following the fire, workers tried to open the chests and regulators to dry them, but it is unclear if they will be useable. Everything salvageable was purchased by Bob MacNeur and Jonas Nordwall of Portland.
Click for a larger version of this image (10K) Dick and Margaret built the restaurant and opened the business in 1975. Its main attraction was the organ, a 1,200-pipe theatre organ that was built in 1930-only 100 of its size made by Wurlitzer. It was the restaurant's centerpiece, which Dick had received in boxes and spent 15 months assembling.
Here, Dick, Margaret and Manager Lance Winchell try to put their best face forward in spite of the tragedy.
Although we all mourn this loss, we join the Dauberts in thanks that there were no injuries nor loss of life.

Photos by Margaret Daubert, 1999.

More information about Pizza & Pipes

© The News Tribune 08/04/1999
The following is from an article by Stacey Burns; The News Tribune
Fire destroys Pizza & Pipes restaurant in University Place
Blaze started in an oven, then smoldered in building's attic

Flames engulfed and destroyed a popular University Place pizza restaurant after workers evacuated the business Tuesday night.

© News Tribune, 1999
The fire ripped through Pizza & Pipes at 2014 Mildred St. W. about 9 p.m. after smoldering in the restaurant's attic for nearly an hour, University Place fire investigators said. Flames and black smoke billowed from the roof and could be seen for blocks.
The smoke attracted a number of people to the area, many of whom had eaten at the restaurant over the years. The business, known for its gigantic pipe organ, opened more than 24 years ago.
"You hate to see it burn down," James Kelley said. "It was a good family place to go."
Kelley and dozens of others watched and took photographs as firefighters from University Place, Lakewood and Tacoma battled the blaze for more than an hour. University Place fire spokesman Dave Dupille said no one was seriously injured.
The restaurant's owner was taken to an area hospital for smoke inhalation. He tried to show firefighters a way to fight the blaze and ran into a patch of smoke, Dupille said.
Monte Pimlot of Tacoma had just finished eating pizza at his niece's ninth birthday party when employees evacuated the restaurant about 8:10 p.m. More than 20 patrons were inside the restaurant at the time.
The family grabbed the presents and leftover pizza, then stood outside and watched the fire build. Pimlot said he was one of the last people out.
"She'll remember this birthday real well," he said of his niece.
The fire started in a pizza oven, but investigators did not know how or why, Dupille said. The Pierce County Sheriff's Department sent an arson investigator to the scene, spokesman Ed Troyer said.
The blaze crawled up the oven's vent and into the restaurant's attic, Dupille said.
Patrons said they didn't know the building was on fire until workers evacuated them. Many said employees tried to put the fire out before removing the customers.
"There was no smoke inside," Anthony Jones said. "There was more smoke on the outside."
Firefighters tried battling the fire from inside the restaurant and from the roof. The building had no sprinkler system.
"The fire just ran along the inside (attic area)," Dupille said. "That was a very difficult issue because the ceiling is very high."
Just before 9 p.m., the roof collapsed as flames broke through the ceiling, and firefighters cleared out of the building and off the roof.

© The News Tribune 10/14/1999
The following is from an article by Art Popham; The News Tribune
Requiem in heartbroken community

© News Tribune, 1999
When fire erupted Aug. 3 at Pizza & Pipes in Tacoma, organist Sherrie Mael Gibelyou was performing the "Titanic" love theme, "My Heart Will Go On." It's the last song that ever will be heard from that 69-year-old theater organ.  
What a perfect requiem.
Fires burn more than buildings or businesses. They leave emotional holes in hearts as well. A devastating blaze is especially hurtful when it affects an enterprise with human ties, community connection and unique appeal as strong as those of Pizza & Pipes.
Pending insurance settlement, owners Dick and Margaret Daubert are still unclear if they'll rebuild. One loss is certain: That 1930 Wurlitzer that gave Pizza & Pipes its charm never will play again. Many feel its loss.
"It's like a part of me has been taken," said Gibelyou, who played that theater organ under her maiden name of Mael for 19 of Pizza & Pipes' 24 years of operation. "It was a big part of me for a lot of years. I started there in 1976 when I was 19. I put myself through PLU playing there four nights a week. A good part of my courtship with my husband was there. My two kids have spent a lot of their early years there. My dad was a really big part of my music. He died in 1991, but sometimes I still thought I could see him sitting there listening to me."
After 14 years at Pizza & Pipes, Gibelyou left in 1990, when her father was near death. Five years later, a call from the Dauberts brought her back.
"Dick called and said he was putting together a collage for Pizza & Pipes' 20th anniversary, and I was in all the pictures," Gibelyou said. "I hadn't even played for five years. I'd been at home with our kids. But, when I sat down there at the organ, it was like I'd never left. As long as I didn't think about it, my hands knew what to do. I've played Sunday matinees and fill-in the past five years."
Actually, Gibelyou was not Pizza & Pipes' longest-tenured organist. That honor belongs to Andy Crow of Olympia. He was there from beginning to end.
"I feel the loss because I was one of the originals and the principal organist there for 24 years," Crow said. "I even helped a bit with the organ installation and kept it up after it was installed. I thought I'd be there three months. That was 24 years ago. Some of my students have become organists there. The thing I miss most is that it was a center for musicians who'd stop and play there on their way between Seattle and Portland."
The emptiness extends beyond those who sat at the console.
"There's a great number of people - including my kids and grandkids - feeling a huge loss," Dick Daubert said. "It's taken on almost mythological proportions. One little girl sent us $5 in change out of her piggy bank to restore the organ."
Dan Small, director of public information at nearby Tacoma Community College and a University Place resident, feels the impact.
"When we moved here in 1978, the only things there were Safeway and Pizza & Pipes," Small said. "Dick and Margaret have been very community-minded. They did fund-raisers for all sports teams, scouts and many, many groups. My dad's a fan of organ music, so we'd go up there at lot. My kids loved that place when they were little. They had birthday parties there. Then my son had his first job there. He'd dress up as characters like Darth Vader. This was a big loss for our community."
Gibelyou recalls that fateful last night.
"I almost forgot I was scheduled to play that night," she said. "My mom reminded me. Then, she and my husband and kids all came up for dinner. They left a half-hour before the manager announced everyone needed to leave the building.
"I did what no performer does: I just stopped playing and got up and left. I thought we'd be coming right back in. It felt surreal. When I eventually came back in after the fire, I thought all my music would be gone. I stored all of it there. But even the folder of music I had at the organ with me survived.
"Lots of Disney music and movie themes were waterlogged and singed but readable. I consider it a gift from God that my music was OK - and that I was the last one to play that organ."

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