ORONOCO — When floodwaters filled the basement of his home, Brandon Evans’ first thought was of his customers’ instruments.
Now, as Evans looks to repair his home and business, some of those same customers are planning to help him with a benefit concert July 28 at Pure Rock Studios of Rochester, 515 Rocky Creek Drive Northeast.
Evans, a luthier who studied at Minnesota State College Southeast in Red Wing, didn’t know his home and workshop were in the path of an approaching flash flood from the Middle Fork of the Zumbro River on June 28.
Heavy rains the morning of June 28 in Pine Island to the Northwest pushed the Middle Fork of the Zumbro River out of its banks. Earlier in the day, heavy rain to the Southwest caused flooding of the South Branch of the Middle Fork. The two waterways come together in Oronoco just west of Evan’s home.
By the time Evan saw water creeping up his backyard, he had little time to save much of his own tools, supplies and parts.
Those items now sit ruined in a trash bin outside his home.
"I was just about done with this guitar," he said, pointing to a vintage sunburst finish guitar top, the glossy finish marred by warped wood.
Evans, who had been living in the Oronoco house about two years, had built up a workshop and customer base repairing, setting up and building stringed instruments.
“I feel like we were just finally getting to the point where it was near completion,” Evans said of his home workshop.
With his 15 customers’ guitars safely upstairs and away from the water, he began trying to mitigate what water might come in.
That was the first time people showed up to help.
Oronoco firefighters and volunteers worked to sandbag the home.
“We didn’t even have to call them — they just showed up,” Evans said.
The ground eventually became so saturated that water came up into the home despite efforts to contain it. With power off to the home for safety, Evan’s sump pump was shut off and the basement was inundated. A fire department-provided pump helped remove some of the water, but the water in Evan’s workshop was four feet deep.
Evans graduated from the MSC-SE luthier program in 2010. At the time, he entered the program without intending to become a luthier.
“I thought it would be interesting, and I would learn some stuff that’s useful,” he said. “This isn’t the thing I thought I’d be doing.”
After working in Colorado and Maine building and repairing guitars, he returned to Minnesota and quickly gained a customer base and support. The job let him stay involved in music and set his own hours. He invested his revenue into tools and supplies over the years to build his workshop. On Saturday, he thought that part of his life was over.
Despite being in the midst of cleanup, Evans and his fiancee took a break to see a show in the Twin Cities. The couple had bought tickets for the event weeks earlier. Evans recalled watching the opening performer — a solo act on guitar. He realized he couldn’t quit building and repairing instruments for musicians.
Shortly after the show, Evans learned that rebuilding would be even harder than he thought. His insurance company turned down his request for coverage under his business policy, saying he maxed out his coverage with a $5,000 payout he was awarded under his homeowner's policy.
That money likely won’t cover replacing the home’s furnace, water heater, clothes washer and dryer and other damage let alone rebuilding and resupplying his shop.
Then, for a second time, people came to his aid without being asked. Rochester-area musicians, spearheaded by Weston Holley and fellow band members of My Grandma's Cardigan, scheduled a benefit concert for Evans on July 28.
Evans said he's touched by the support, but also feels a bit of guilt.
“I feel bad because I feel insurance should be covering this and not my customers,” Evans said.
Friends also set up a GoFundMe to help him rebuild the shop. Evans loves being around music but is most comfortable as a luthier because he can be involved but not have to set foot on stage. The attention he has received lately makes him feel appreciated but a bit uneasy. However, in the end, he knows these efforts are about getting him back to doing what he loves.
"It's just been reassuring to know I can't stop doing this," he said. "Number one, I don't want to stop."