Kolar Buick Toyota Fire, 1984

July 18, 1984


Heavy smoke wafts from the Kolar Buick Toyota dealership in Duluth in the early stages of a fire that later raged out of control, consuming the building and its contents. Early reports estimate 35 to 40 cars were destroyed. (John Rott / News Tribune)

Fire ravaged the Kolar Buick Toyota dealership on the night of July 18, 1984, in Duluth.

The building, which resides at 1402 E. Superior St., was spared, and the business continued to operate its Duluth dealership from that location until 1998, when the business moved to its current spot — which opened in 1997 — in Hermantown.

The building at became home to the Duluth Detoxification Center on Aug. 20, 2001.

From a Sept. 27, 1998, News Tribune story:

Kolar leaving Superior Street auto dealer to move business to its Hermantown location

By Kate Warkentin Bramson
News Tribune staff writer

In what Kolar Auto World’s co-owner Peter Kolar calls "strictly a demographic decision," the Duluth car dealership will move from its East Superior Street location to Hermantown.

The Nov. 1 relocation is in line with what major automobile manufacturers want their dealerships nationwide to do — locate in the main retail hub areas of their communities. And locally, Kolar joins the ranks of several auto dealerships that have opened or relocated in recent years along the Miller Hill corridor.

A regional economic development specialist says the car dealership’s move is indicative of the pressures Detroit auto manufacturers are putting on their dealers.

"Detroit is saying, ‘We want high visibility,’ " said Jim Wrobleski, the northeast regional representative to the Minnesota Department of Trade and Economic Development.


Flames rage above the showroom on the Superior Street side of Kolar Buick as part of the roof has collapsed on a car. (Jack Rendulich / News Tribune)



Duluth firefighters Dave Ostazeski (left) and Ernie Butler take a break from fighting the blaze. (Jack Rendulich / News Tribune)



Kolar Buick Toyota salesman Tom Bruce (left) walks between a new and charred Toyota van at the new-car lot by the burned-out building Thursday, July 19, 1984. (Jon Rott / News Tribune)

The new van on the left is almost exactly like the one my parents purchased in early 1985 from that dealership. I remember going with them to pick it out. Former UMD hockey great Keith "Huffer" Christiansen sold it to us — one of my oldest memories. I was 3.

3 Responses

  1. Bill Buss

    My dad worked at Molar then. I remebr the night he rushed back to work to save all his tools and equipment in the fire.

  2. Brian Lorntson

    I bought a car from them right after that. It was their “fire” sale… LOL… It was a 1998 Olds Delta 88 that had a police interceptor, as it was a former Cloquet cruiser. The hood had some fire damage but overall, it was one of my favorite vehicles ever!!

  3. Kathie

    I remember the fire at Kolar Buick cuz, my grandma lived right across the street from that building. In fact, my grandfather used to be a salesman there when it was Vern D. Johnson Oldsmobile.

    I just wanted to say thank you to whomever is responsible for keeping the Attic alive too. I hadn’t thought to check in lately cuz, I thought it was being closed.

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