LAGRANGE, Ind. (WANE) — After a fire ripped through three buildings Tuesday in downtown LaGrange, business owners are trying to figure out what to do next.
According to LaGrange County dispatchers, a fire was reported around 10 a.m. in a series of three buildings housing a Family Dollar store, Gould Sports and Santa Cruz Tienda Y Carniceria, in the 100 block of North Detroit Street.
For the owner of the Mexican grocery, Manuel Aguilar, it wasn’t a question of “if” they would rebuild, but a matter of when. Santa Cruz Tienda Y Carniceria has been in business for 16 years. Aguilar said it is the only Hispanic grocery store in the community.
“It’s very important to us to still remain in business for the community,” said Jeanette Aguilar. “Not just the Hispanics, but everybody.”
Jeanette works at her father’s grocery store. She said rebuilding will be a huge undertaking. The roof is damaged along with all the merchandise inside, and there is water the basement. The family was only able to salvage a few valuables.
“I was panicked,” said Jeanette. “You don’t think about stuff like that. I don’t even know what to get. So I just grabbed the safe and the money out of the register and I went outside.”
Several hours after fighting the fire, the building housing the Family Dollar store collapsed, but neighboring businesses continued to burn. Fire crews spent the majority of yesterday battling the massive fire. Crews were still on scene more than 24 hours later.
“A lot of my guys have been up since yesterday morning when they got up to go to work,” said LaGrange Volunteer Fire Department Chief Dave Elick.
A stretch of the downtown roadway was blocked off, which forced several businesses on North Detroit Street to close. Chicago Joe’s restaurant sits on the next block over from where the fire began. Although the fire didn’t spread to that business, the owner said the restaurant is closed because of smoke damage.
The Aguilars are not certain when the store will reopen. Rebuilding could take months. Jeanette said there’s a long road ahead, but they are thankful for the firefighters and the outpouring of support from the community.
“I just want to say thanks to all the firefighters for the effort for helping us,” she said. “Thanks to them, [our building] is still up.”
Fire officials have not determined the cause of the fire.