×

Fire Damages Retail Building South of Downtown White River Junction (Video)

  • Firefighters break through a door on the upper story of the the building that houses the Heirloom Antique Center & Furniture Hospital and Mainly Vintage clothing store in the early hours of Tuesday, June 19, 2018, in White River Junction, Vt. (Valley News - August Frank) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Mike Tidwell, of the Hartford Fire Department, works to put out any fires on the inside of the building that houses the Heirloom Antique Center & Furniture Hospital and Mainly Vintage clothing store in White River Junction, Vt., on Tuesday, June 19, 2018. (Valley News - August Frank) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Firefighters from the Hanover department attempt to get flames at the building that houses the Heirloom Antique Center & Furniture Hospital and Mainly Vintage clothing store under control in the early hours of Tuesday, June 19, 2018, in White River Junction, Vt. The cause is under investigation. (Valley News - August Frank) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • The building that houses the Heirloom Antique Center & Furniture Hospital and Mainly Vintage clothing store goes up in flames in the early hours of Tuesday, June 19, 2018, in White River Junction, Vt. The cause is under investigation. (Valley News - August Frank) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Mainly Vintage clothing store owner Ann Hayden hugs Marc Garza, who bought the property during an early hours fire in White River Junction, Vt., on Tuesday, June 19, 2018. (Valley News - August Frank) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Firefighters battle a blaze at an antique store along Route 5 in White River Junction, Vt., on the morning of Tuesday, June 19, 2018. (Valley News - Maggie Cassidy) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 19, 2018

White River Junction— Fire officials are working to determine what caused a two-alarm fire early this morning that heavily damaged a commercial building on Route 5 that had recently changed hands. 

The building that houses the Heirloom Antique Center & Furniture Hospital and Mainly Vintage clothing store was recently sold to a new owner, Marc Garza, who had plans to develop a gym there. The two stores were renting space from Garza until they could relocate, said Ann Hayden, who opened Mainly Vintage at that location in 2003. Her partner, Richard Brown, ran the furniture store.

As firefighters doused the building and used a chainsaw to rip through a wall, Hayden said that her heart broke for the new owner.

“I really feel really bad for Marc,” she said. “It’s worst for him. His plans are totally blacked out.”

Garza, a 1984 Hartford High School graduate who Hayden said had been out of town, arrived at the scene at about 9:30 a.m., tearfully hugging onlookers who had gathered to watch as firefighters continued their work. He declined to comment.

Hartford Fire Chief Scott Cooney said firefighters were on scene within 5 minutes after a caller reported smoke coming from the building at 4:47 a.m. First responders immediately recognized there was a “high danger to firefighters” due to the contents of the building and soon upgraded to two alarms.

“Because of what it was — antique, lots of furniture, lots of bulk storage in the building, refinishing equipment, flammable liquids, combustible liquids — the department knew ahead of time that this was a hazard for firefighting operations, so the staff knew to take those extra precautions as far as doing any type of fire attack,” Cooney said. 

Firefighters spent several hours trying to put out the fire from the outside of the building, Cooney said.

Some flames continued to appear sporadically even after the fire was called under control about 9 a.m. Route 5 north near the intersection of Route 4, aka Woodstock Road, was closed for several hours.

Cooney said fire investigators from his department, the Vermont State Police Arson Unit and the state’s Division of Fire Safety are investigating. Cooney said it is standard for the arson unit to investigate fires at commercial properties; there are no early indications that the fire might be suspicious, he said.

“We’re still trying to extinguish the fire and once we do we’ll have a better idea of where the origin was inside the building,” Cooney said. “And then from there the investigators kind of rule out what the possible causes of a fire occurring in that area would be.”

He said an excavator will likely be brought in and used to pick away at the building to try and help determine the cause. Hartford officials said later this afternoon that firefighters will remain on scene throughout Tuesday night. In part, the firefighters will be on hand in case the fire starts back up, said Hartford Capt. Shawn Hannux.

The roughly 3,300-square-foot building at 672 North Main Street sits on just under a half acre of land. The property also includes a small apartment building that sits across the driveway.

The total assessed value of the property is $272,700. The recent sales price was about $335,000, both Garza and Hayden previously told the Valley News.

The building was unoccupied and no injuries were reported. Hayden, 77, and Brown, 87, had recently moved out of the apartment on the property to a living space in Wilder.

Cooney said it was too early to say if the building that housed the antique and clothing stores would be a total loss, but extensive damage was visible from the street, including a missing roof. Firefighters used a chainsaw to cut through the side of the building, while a collection of furniture sat soaking on the front porch.

Cooney said two people in a nearby building were evacuated due to the heavy smoke flowing from the property.

Hayden said she and Brown have insurance. It wasn’t immediately clear whether Garza did.

Hayden started collecting clothes with her sister in Minneapolis decades ago, and amassed her collection from all over — auctions, traveling abroad, direct sales and more.

“I feel really bad because I have some really special stuff,” she said. “Some of the really special things, you can’t replace that stuff. I still have some stuff from 40 years ago.”

Her partner, Brown, also felt sadness as he looked on this morning.

“I loved it,” he said of the business he ran for decades. “I’m sorry to see it go the way it did.”

Throughout the morning, friends and customers stopped by to give Hayden hugs and support, including Brandon Elston, 35. He had been shopping at the store for the decade that he’s lived in White River Junction, and recently was volunteering four or five hours a week in exchange for a discount. One of the reasons he loved the store is that it was one of the few in the area that had a decent collection of vintage menswear.

“I think the only pictures on their Facebook page is cowboy boots, but it was so much more than that,” Elston said, rattling off the various collections — Victorian, Edwardian, linens and more.

As another woman stopped by to give Hayden a hug and mourn the loss of the clothing collection, Hayden offered a smile and tried to crack a joke.

“I’m sure it’s getting a good wash job,” she said. 

But even as she maintained her composure, she said the loss would loom large.

“This impacts me. This is a big impact,” she said. “It’s a reality.”

In addition to Hartford, crews from Hanover, Lebanon, Woodstock, Hartland, Norwich and Thetford responded.

Former Selectman Mike Morris, who grew up in Hartford and who owns a neighboring property, called it a sad day for both the new and old owners, as well as for community members who frequented the stores.

“These guys worked hard all of their life and they finally sold the place. Then to have this happen … such a shame,” Morris said as he watched from afar. “It is just devastating to everyone involved.”

Staff Writer Jordan Cuddemi contributed to this report. Maggie Cassidy can be reached at mcassidy@vnews.com or 603-727-3220.