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WINONA, Minn. - From the boutique to the coffee shops, sadness has set in for business owners in downtown Winona.

A devastating fire gutted three buildings and others nearby suffered widespread smoke and water damage.

"It's a rough day for us," said one business owner.

"It's a little devastating for us," said another. "We've been here seven years."

Business owners had just kicked off the Main Street Program, which was an opportunity to revitalize some of the downtown.

"Your heart sinks because you work 50-60 hours a week for 10 years and build up a clientele, you know, it's your life," said Amy Jo Marks, owner of Blooming Grounds.

The buildings impacted by the fire were built in the 1970s and in some ways their age hindered firefighters.

"It had a cement roof on it, and it was built as a pretty substantial structure," explained a longtime Winona resident.

Attics, old ventilation systems and elevator shafts made putting out hot spots very difficult.

But it's the business lost that has many discouraged.

"It's like one step forward, two steps back," said Marks.

And for Paul Brosnahan, a lawyer whose building is now a shell of itself, it's just tough.

"We've been fortunate, in our practice, that we've been able to help people and ironically, some of those same people are turning around wanting to help us," Brosnahan said.

Fire officials say most of the business owners will be able to get inside over the weekend. They spent much of Friday making sure that the buildings were structurally sound.

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