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Fire that wiped out Southington store still under investigation

SOUTHINGTON -- A popular family owned grocery store in Southington went up in flames just after 7:30 Sunday night and it spread so quickly, firefighters were unable to save the business, which opened in 1951.

Fortunately, there were no injuries. Investigators are still working to determine a cause.

Within 10 to 15 minutes of the Southington Fire Department arriving, Tops Marketplace, at 887 Meriden-Waterbury Turnpike, was completely engulfed.

"I can’t even think straight," said Betsy Tooker, a partner in Tops. "Seems like this morning was worse than last night to me. "

Tooker was working in the store along with four employees when the fire broke out in the back of the building. She was alerted by a customer, who had just left the store.

"They haven’t really confirmed anything," said John Salerno, the owner of the store since 1979." It was inside the building, inside that wall."

"It’s shock and devastation," said Sue Willette, who has worked for Tops for 16 years. "I just I can’t believe it’s gone. I really can’t. And it really has nothing to do with my job. They were family."

"There aren’t many family run grocery stores left and when you see the scope of the devastation here and the lost jobs and the loss to the community, it’s tough," said Southington Fire Department Battalion Chief Glenn Dube.

"We watched it (fire) go from one end of the building to the other raging flames and I just I couldn’t understand why," Salerno said

Southington Fire Department Battalion Chief Glenn Dube says plastics and other synthetics, commonly used in modern day construction, now causes them to burn hotter and faster than they did 30 years ago.

"In this case, this building had been renovated many times," Dube said. So, there are a lot of void spaces for the fire to travel. Small void spaces where it can travel quickly."

Early detection is critical.

READ: Community rallies around Tops Marketplace.

You used to have 15 to 20 minutes to get out of the building once the fire started. You have 3 to 4 now.," Dube said.

"I’m hoping that this town takes care of these people," said Ellen Misbach, who works in

Tops bakery department. "They’ve taken care of everybody in this town."

"We are really afraid that they’re not going to put another little grocery store here because it’s not, it’s not what they do anymore," said Liz Prince, who says she shops at Tops every day.

John Salerno employs 30 people, including 7 full-time. He says his intention is to rebuild.

He did say though the ultimate decision will be based on what his insurance covers compared to what construction costs will be.

Many are interested in making donations. In fact, the first of the contributions wee made Monday.

"My grandchildren, Gaines and Graydon, just gave us our first $6 dollars to rebuild," a beaming Salerno said.

His handsome grandsons, ages 6 and 4, also gave him four cookies "just to make me feel better. And it does," Salerno said.

Google Map for coordinates 41.563504 by -72.874417.

Tops Marketplace in Plantsville

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