J&C Grocery takes first step to recovery - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

J&C Grocery takes first step to recovery


J & C Grocery in Allison is taking it's first step Wednesday to make the store a reality again.

The grocery store, located on Main St., burned to the ground in September in an early morning electrical fire. It happened around 4 a.m.

Two semis with steel arrived Wednesday and crews from Des Moines started unloading and building.

It should take about three weeks to get the building up. It will then take about a week to thaw the ground before they pour the concrete.

Jay Skarr, J & C Grocery owner said it's important for a town like Allison to have a grocery store.

"I know in a small community a lot of people think it's easy to run out of town and go somewhere else to get groceries, but they don't realize how important it is to keep the dollars at home and keep a local business going. Other small towns will dry up. We are already seeing it around the country, towns dried up and gone," Skarr said.

He said there's not another grocery store for about 10 miles in any direction. Skarr has owned the store for 35 years. He was out of town at a food show when the fire happened.

On the day of the fire, eight fire departments were called in to help fight the blaze.

Two Parkersburg firefighters were injured while trying to enter the building.

Scott Lursen, store manager said it's a huge blow to this small town as the business had been a vital community staple for decades.

"You know everybody always says the grocery store's kind of the lifeline of your community, and I really believe it is," Lursen said.

The fire comes just a few months after Skarr added all new freezers to help serve customers.  Even though he's reaching retirement age, he said his commitment to this business won't be ending.

"At this point our goal is to build a store back up. Of course it'll be bigger and better than ever. We've always wanted a sit down deli, things like that. So now we're going to look at all the different options," Skarr said.

Until the store can be rebuilt, two of its full time employees will be able to work at his store in Dumont.  That store will also help Skarr keep his commitments in Allison.

"Matter of fact had 2 or 3 phone calls already this morning. The fire department had just ordered some stuff and the bank. And we will have it covered. I said I haven't missed a beat in 35 years, we won't miss on this," Skarr said.

Skarr is even hoping he can continue serving home-bound senior citizens in Allison with some kind of home delivery service.

Additional Note:

Sunday, fire officials said their response was delayed because it took a long time for the power company to arrive and shut off the electricity.  We talked with Mid American Energy Monday.  The company says gas was shut off to the building within 30 minutes.  The trouble in shutting off the power came with electrical fuses tripping inside the store.  Crews couldn't get inside to turn them off because the building was filled with smoke.  So they had to travel to a power substation to get the electricity turned off to the building.  By the time that was done, the fire had been burning for 90 minutes.

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