Bob Schoonmaker didn’t hesitate when the inevitable question came up Friday night. When asked what he planned to do following the fire that heavily damaged the family business, Schoony’s North Granville Grocery, Schoonmaker didn’t miss a beat when he said: “We’ll rebuild; oh yeah definitely, we’ll rebuild.”
Less than an hour after the call went out alerting him to the fire, Schoonmaker was already planning to battle back.
Schoony’s North Granville Grocery received heavy damage from a fire that started in an attic storage area before being extinguished by firefighters from around the area. Firefighters began responding Friday just after 4:30 p.m. to reports the North Granville business was on fire. No serious injuries were reported at the scene.
Firefighters remained on the scene until after 10 p.m. sifting through the debris and making sure the fire was fully extinguished.
While the fire was largely contained in the attic storage area, the business received heavy smoke and water damage before the fire was extinguished.
Much of the contents of the story were likewise damaged during the fighting of the fire.
Schoonmaker began making plans even as fire crews worked, having firefighters recover the filing cabinet containing insurance paperwork. The next day he said he hoped to have an electrician on site to figure out a way to keep the coolers and freezers running and then go from there.
Schoonmaker said he wants to keep operating a business.
“I love doing this; it’s a lot of fun. …We’ll be back,” Schoonmaker said.
Schoonmaker said he was cutting Christmas trees to sell at the store with his wife, Dorie, when the two got a call from their daughter informing them the store was on fire.
“We rushed down here dropping Christmas trees all over the road,” Dorie Schoonmaker said as she looked on with family, friends and customers while firefighters worked to finally stamp out the tenacious blaze.
Former owner and operators of the store Jake and Mary Sabo came to the scene as soon as they heard about the fire. Mary Sabo said they had the store for about 26 years before retiring from the business. “It’s horrible, just horrible,” a teary-eyed Mary Sabo said as she watched firefighters hosing down the attic.
“He just brought is back and it was doing all right and now this,” Jake Sabo said. Both said they hoped to see Schoonmaker rebuild.
North Granville Fire Chief Scott McCullen said he agreed with fire investigators who determined the fire had been accidental and the source of the fire was electrical.
Clerks working in the store at the time said they recalled hearing a popping noise, which seemed odd, but had no other indications the store was on fire until customer Wes Barlow stopped in to tell them it looked like flames were shooting out of the roof.
Schoony’s clerks Sarah Utley and Briana Faele said they had not smelled smoke or seen any other indications there was a problem before Barlow came through the door. They called 911 and left the store without pausing to grab a coat.
Schoonmaker said he was grateful for the efforts of the seven fire departments that responded to the scene.
“I can’t say enough about what the firefighters did. They were great. They did a great job. I don’t think people realize all they do for us; it’s really a thankless job,” Schoonmaker said.
Royal and Susan Potter are tenants renting the four-bedroom apartment that makes up the rear section of the store. “We’ve got a place to stay tonight, but after this I don’t know where we’re going to go,” Royal Potter said.
Initially the family was displaced for one night by the fire as power was removed from the building to allow firefighters to do their work.
Fire officials later said because the apartment has separate electrical and heat the tenants were cleared to return by some time Saturday.
The fire was stopped before it got to the apartment so no damage was done by fire, smoke or water, officials said.
Fire companies including North Granville, Middle Granville, Granville Engine and Hose, Granville Hook & Ladder, Whitehall, West Pawlet, Vt., Hartford and Fort Ann as well as the Granville Rescue Squad responded to the fire.