‘A new leaf’: WK Liquors rebuilds after tornado

This story originally appeared in the Herald’s homecoming news magazine edition, published on Oct. 24.

Manojkumar+Patel%2C+owner+of+WK+Liquors%2C+leans+out+of+where+the+drive+thru+window+will+be+when+his+store+reopens+while+discussing+the+future+of+the+store+in+Bowling+Green%2C+Ky.+on+Oct.+3%2C+2022.+The+window+will+be+higher+than+it+was+previously%2C+so+a+ramp+will+be+built+for+cars+to+reach+the+window.

Allie Schallert

Manojkumar Patel, owner of WK Liquors, leans out of where the drive thru window will be when his store reopens while discussing the future of the store in Bowling Green, Ky. on Oct. 3, 2022. The window will be higher than it was previously, so a ramp will be built for cars to reach the window.

Damon Stone, News reporter

Almost a full year after devastating tornadoes ripped through communities, homes and businesses in Bowling Green, a local friendly face is making headway on the road to recovery.

Reconstruction on WK Liquors, owned and operated by Manojkumar Patel, is well on its way, thanks primarily to outreach from the community.

Patel received a photo of what was left of his store at 3:13 a.m. the morning of Dec. 11 from one of his salesmen. Broken shelves and jagged bottles sat littered in the rubble.

“It came as a total shock,” Patel told the Herald in January. “It was kind of difficult to accept that everything is gone.”

Following that dark day, WKU alumna Natalie Kelley started a GoFundMe for Patel to help with the loss of his liquor store. Kelley describes Patel as “a pillar of the community,” and ultimately over $15,000 was raised for Patel.

Manojkumar Patel, owner of WK Liquors, talks about some of the new features the rebuilt store will have when it reopens while showing the building plans on Oct. 3, 2022 in Bowling Green, Ky. Patel has done a lot of research into rebuilding after tornado damage, changing the roof shape to a pitched roof and where windows are so it can better withstand storm damage in the future. (Allie Schallert)

“The outreach has been tremendous,” Patel said. “… [The students have] come to assist me in my time of need, and it certainly hasn’t gone unnoticed.”

Patel hired a clean-up crew from Nashville to help with debris removal and the reconstruction is being run by Brian Miller Contracting based out of Scottsville. Most of the funding for the rebuilding has largely come from insurance payouts. Patel was able to use the insurance payouts as his primary source of income.

“They’ve been exceptional, and they’ve understood the actual [breadth] of what’s required to build, and they’re actually getting it done,” Patel said.

In the time after the tornado, Patel has worked tirelessly to begin the rebuilding process, including designing the new layout of the store – one that will prominently feature treasured memories.

Patel was able to salvage many of the photos that were gifted to him by WKU students from the wreckage.

“The photos are still going to go up on the wall because it is just going to be remembered as part of the tornado,” Patel said. “How can I delete memorabilia that has impacted me personally? So I went back and made sure I tried to get back as much as I could.”

Manojkumar Patel, owner of WK Liquors, stands in his store that’s being rebuilt after the original building was damaged by a tornado in December 2021. Patel received a lot of community support that made it possible to build an entirely new store on the same lot. “It’s been a lot of pain,” Patel said. “But it’s coming through. It’s coming through.” (Allie Schallert)

Patel has kept a selection of memorabilia from the original store, including a mirror given to him from several WKU students.

“When I opened the store, there was a group of I think four or five young ladies that came and saw that the bathroom didn’t have a mirror, and they all signed their names on the back of the mirror,” Patel said.

One addition to the new store is a digital sign, which Patel plans to use to announce upcoming events on campus like holidays, home games, graduations and even 21st birthday celebrations.

Patel said WK Liquors will have a grand reopening in collaboration with students, primarily from Greek Life, because of their continued support. He said it is expected to happen sometime in December, with an official date to come in the near future.

For now, the work continues.

“The hardest part of reopening is actually getting the work done in a timely way,” Patel said. “There’s constraints with the supply chain, and it doesn’t seem to be getting any easier […] It’s basically turning over a new leaf; you put the past behind you and you carry on.”

News reporter Damon Stone can be reached at [email protected]