TOULON – The small Stark County town of Toulon is figuring out what’s next after a fire burned its only grocery store nearly to the ground.
Residents said it has been a tough two and half weeks since the store burned down. They have to drive to nearby Wyoming or Kewanee to buy their food, but those travels are most likely only temporary.
Resident Mary Houlihan said, "It's, it's very difficult."
Toulon’s Main Street is a little quieter without the Super Valu grocery store. Houlihan said the fire has affected a lot of lives. She said, “A lot of folks in this town are older folks and it's real hard for them to get anywhere else in the area to buy their groceries."
Houlihan runs Cakes Etcetera down the block. She said she can get around just fine, but for her, it’s all about the convenience. “It's bothered us a little bit cause when we're doing our job out there and we run out of something, we'd just run out down the street to get it from them and we were covered."
The community of Toulon is not giving up on its grocery store. In fact, a group of residents is giving their own money to make sure this store gets a second life.
John Leezer is on the advisory committee for Stark County Ventures LLC. He said, “We want to rebuild. We're investigating all of our options."
Stark County Ventures LLC owns the charred grocery store. Leezer said the group is doing everything it can to get the rebuilding process going. "We're getting bids for the demolition to clean up the site. We're hoping to get that going pretty soon."
The advisory committee hasn’t decided if it will rebuild on this same site. Leezer said it’s turning this loss into an opportunity and plans to expand the store, giving residents even more options. "We're looking at a square footage of about one and half times of what this was. So if everything works, maybe we'll have a bigger and better store."
The cause of the fire is still unknown. Leezer said there’s no definite timeline for getting a new store built.