‘This has been my life for 30 years’ — Brothers hope to rebuild after fire destroys store

Posted at 9:56 PM, Nov 29, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-29 21:56:44-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- The brothers who own and run Prep Sports Centre celebrated their 50th anniversary this year, but on Saturday the long-time family business was destroyed by a fire.

Now, Chris and Greg VanDyke are struggling to come to terms with all that's been lost.

"It's been difficult, this has been my life for 30 years," said Chris. "I've been working here for over 30 years."

All their lives, Chris and Greg have been fully involved in the family-run business just off Plainfield Avenue.

Everything changed on Nov. 25 when Greg's phone rang at 6 a.m. with the news that his family's company was on fire.

"I was just in shock," he said. "I didn't even put my socks on or nothing. I just drove down ... just cried, over and over."

He arrived to see massive flames engulfing the building.

"This is where I went six days a week," Chris said. "I have nowhere else to go."

The community is also feeling the sting of the fire.

"I've been going here since I was a little kid said John Koval, a close friend of the brothers. "Now I bring my kids here. Greg's been training my little son. It's their livelihood and something they've done for years, so it's pretty hard for them."

There was a lot of history in Prep Sports and a lot of valuable sports memorabilia. "There were some historic photos of Jackie Robinson in Cuba in a Brooklyn Dodgers uniform signing autographs," Chris said. "There's things in there that goes back to when my dad started this business."

Hundreds of old baseball gloves and other prized athletic gear were also inside.  In all, they value the loss at around $200,000.

The financial loss hurts, but Greg says he feels worse for the kids who came here to learn how to play baseball and softball.  They have 100 kids signed up to practice.

"We were doing seven days a week training," Greg said, adding that training was held the night before the fire.

Crews believe the fire started in the basement, but no cause has been officially determined.

The family has insurance that will help with rebuilding.  However, the VanDykes didn't have insurance on the building's contents, which means everything burned up inside will not be covered.

A GoFundMe page was started to help with rebuilding costs.