Pipes freeze and break at Orchards Mall due to holiday blizzard, frustrating business owners

NOW: Pipes freeze and break at Orchards Mall due to holiday blizzard, frustrating business owners

BENTON TOWNSHIP, Mich. – Norbert Zimpher came into the Orchards Mall at 11:00am on Monday to find his mattress store, Doctor Zzzz’z Mattress Center, flooded.

“Everything was in water,” Zimpher said.

During the holiday blizzard, the freezing cold temperatures caused a water line inside the mall to freeze and burst, leaving much of the mall under an inch of water.

A small staff of mall employees worked to clean up the water damage.

Babayemi Femi—a part owner in the mall—told me that that the timing made it difficult to get a cleaning service to the mall.

“I put a call out to a couple of companies, but you know, it’s the holiday period, so most of them were not available,” he said, adding that he planned to bring in a professional service.

But for Zimpher, the damage is already done.

“Mattresses that are standing up in water are completely unsellable,” said Zimpher. “It’s like a sponge. They soak up the water. And even the mattresses on the floor—with all the moisture in the store now, I don’t even know what to do with them.”

If all this inventory is wet and you can’t sell it, how much money do you think you’re going to lose out of this? I asked.

“I’m guessing around $50,000. And anything unsellable, I can’t donate—I can’t do anything with it. All I can do is haul it to the dump,” he said.

Zimpher believed the pipe froze because the owners haven’t been running heat in the mall. Zimpher himself had several space heaters set up in his shop to keep it warm.

Femi denied that they haven’t been running the heat; he said that a door was left open by someone who broke into the mall, letting in the frigid air that froze the pipe.

Benton Township Police tell me that an incident report has not yet been filed.

Femi said that he still thinks even with the water damage, there’s still hope for the mall, but the flooding is a setback.

“Each time I try to put in all my best into the mall— my resources, my time, my everything— once I’m like two feet forward, someone somewhere tries to pull me back four steps backward,” he said.

But Zimpher, who’s store has been in the mall for 18 years—and still has six years on his lease—can’t see a future.

“I don’t believe this mall is going to be here in six years,” said Zimpher. “Not in this state.”

Zimpher said that if he is forced to close his doors, he wants to be financially compensated by the mall due to the incident, though he hoped to reopen his doors at some point after the New Year.

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