Historic Parma Theatre on Ridge Road catches fire; Worker next door tries to save wedding dresses

Owner: Building has been locked up for two months

PARMA, Ohio - The historic Parma Theatre, which opened in 1936, on Ridge Road caught on fire at about 5 p.m. Friday.

Parma Fire Department spokesman Doug Turner said 22 firefighters, as well as crews from Brooklyn and Parma Heights, put out the fire within an hour. The fire was contained to the theater lobby, Turner said.

[PHOTO GALLERY: Parma Theatre fire 5.wews.com/fmpOn ]

"About four or five days ago I went and set the thermostat at about 48 or 50 degrees, in case it got real cold for the water lines. Other than that, it's been locked up for two months," owner Bob Hellriegel said.

Dorina Fodor alters wedding dresses in her shop connected to the theater and called the fire department. She started throwing dresses out the front door, but could only save a few of the 50 inside.

"I tried to get out as much as I couldn't, but it wasn't much because the smoke was coming in really, really quick and I started to choke," Fodor said.

Some of the dresses are for weddings that are on Saturday.

"Obviously, yes, tomorrow and next weekend. So I feel really, really bad for my customers. I've been here for 11 years and I was doing great. I don't know or who tried to something or if the theater got on fire by itself, that's hard to believe."

She won't know the condition of the other dresses until she can get into the shop, but she's still hoping for the best. The neighboring food store also sustained heavy smoke damage.

Fodor said a theater manager comes by to clean up occasionally, but she didn't see anyone there Friday night.

No injuries were reported. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

While firefighters surveyed the damage, a group gathered to take pictures as they swapped stories and memories of the 76-year-old theater.

The Parma Theatre closed on Sept. 9 and its sign out front says "Closed. Thanks for your patronage." The theater stopped showing movies during the week because of poor attendance at the beginning of the year, but there was a recent push to save it.

Just Thursday night a group of citizens met at another location to talk about how to breathe new life into landmark building.

The building was for sale with an asking price of $795,000, plus it already needed a new roof, parking lot and various interior repairs.

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