A state fire investigator is investigating a three-alarm blaze early Sunday that heavily damaged Sandstone Gardens, a landmark business on Interstate 44 known for its architecture and restaurant that attracted tourists and bus tour groups as well as retail shoppers.

The Redings Mill Fire Department was called to the business at 1:52 a.m. in response to a smoke alarm report. Soon after, a fire rapidly spread throughout the building. Redings Mill firefighters called for assistance from all surrounding mutual-aid fire departments. Those departments were released from the scene after knocking down the large fire, a spokesman for the Redings Mill department said.

It is possible that the building was destroyed, he said. No injuries were reported.

Sandstone Gardens is located at 2826 Douglas Fir Road but was visible from I-44 at its site southwest of Joplin near Loma Linda. The large building, about 50,000 square feet, was noted for its style, modeled after a turn-of-the-century estate.

The business was a large retail store offering garden statuary, landscape accessories, home furnishings and decor, kitchen goods, cooking classes and other services. It also was the home of The Bistro restaurant.

The business was started in 1986 by Joplin residents Max and Vicki Carr in their one-car garage at their home, where they made garden statuary molds and cast concrete garden accents. As their business grew, they traveled to garden and flower shows across the United States, and she won numerous awards for her garden designs.

In the early 1990s, they opened a retail location on South Range Line Road that drew shoppers from a large area to visit and buy from its decorative showroom, greenhouses and gardens. As demand for their products continued to grow, they built Sandstone Gardens on 68 acres along the interstate in 2004.

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