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Food Lion reopens

July 15, 1998|By CLYDE FORD and KERRY LYNN FRALEYs

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. - Steady crowds kept employees at the Berkeley Springs Food Lion grocery store busy Wednesday, when shoppers were allowed in for the first time since a July 8 fire destroyed a neighboring store in the Morgan Square Shopping Center.

"It looks like everybody's stocking up. We're getting a lot of full baskets coming through the line," said Food Lion spokeswoman Tawn Earnest from the corporate office in Salisbury, N.C.

Damage to the Family Dollar store, flanked by Food Lion and a Goodwill store, was initially estimated at between $900,000 and $1 million.

Firewalls separating the stores minimized damage to its neighbors by keeping the fire from spreading, according to Berkeley Springs Volunteer Fire Department Chief James "J.J." Steiner.

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The cause of the fire remains under investigation by the West Virginia Fire Marshal's Office and probably won't be released for several weeks, Fire Marshal Matt Hutchinson said Wednesday.

The Food Lion store suffered only light smoke damage on the sales floor but had some heavier smoke damage in the back area, which includes storage and the employee break room, Earnest said.

"Sanitation was one of the big issues - getting everything clean and ready," said store Manager Terry Wilson.

Between 30 and 50 regular employees, and painting and clean-up crews worked around the clock to eliminate smoke damage and restock the store as soon as possible, Wilson said.

Meanwhile, the store was inundated with calls from customers wanting to know when it would reopen, Earnest said.

The Food Lion is the largest supermarket in rural Morgan County, Wilson said.

"This is a vital asset to the community," Wilson said. "I was kind of surprised we were able to get it back up and ready as quickly as we did."

Most of the store's more than 100 employees maintained a job during the cleanup, he said.

It didn't take customers long to figure out the store had reopened.

"They found out throughout the day. People have been showing up," Wilson said.

A lot of food had to be sacrificed to meet Food Lion's safety standards and those of the Morgan County Health Department, Earnest said.

Whether or not they showed damage, all perishable food and "soft-packaging" items, were thrown away, Wilson said. The food was taken to a landfill for disposal, he said.

The shelves were cleaned and restocked, Wilson said. The health department inspected the store twice during the cleanup, the last time at 4 p.m. Tuesday, he said.

"It's a precautionary measure to make sure our customers are getting the safest product," Earnest said.

The store is not releasing the value of the items, Earnest said.

The store opened in 1990 and underwent a major renovation last year, she said.

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