03/05/04 — Store fire may destroy livelihood

View Archive

Store fire may destroy livelihood

By Jack Stephens
Published in News on March 5, 2004 2:00 PM

A woman's business went up in flames today when her neighborhood grocery store was heavily damaged in a fire.

When Rachel Jefferson saw the fire at her Jefferson Corner Grocery at 107 Riway St., one of her first thoughts was: "How can I pay my bills?"

For more than 15 years, Mrs. Jefferson and her family had operated the store, serving customers in northwest Goldsboro.

"It's been my livelihood," she said.

Mrs. Jefferson said her business was not like a chain store, where managers stock groceries delivered by truck and then take up the money. She said she had used her own money to run the business with three part-time employees.

She also said she did not have insurance on the cinderblock building that was valued at $25,000. The contents were worth another $50,000. Damage was estimated at $15,000 to the building and $20,000 to the contents, officials said.

When she saw the fire, she called 911 and found that several others also had called. Then neighbors knocked on the door of her North James Street home, which is beside the store, to make sure that she was safe.

After an investigation, Police Sgt. David Kelly said later today that clothes piled on a power strip under a front window had caused the fire.

Special Agent John Rea of the State Bureau of Investigation assisted in the case.

When the call came in at 5:54 a.m., 15 Goldsboro firefighters responded with three engines, a ladder and a command car.

"When we arrived, flames were showing out of the roof and the front of the store," Assistant Fire Chief Gary Whaley said. "They knocked it down in about 10 minutes."

Firefighters stayed at the store for about two hours to put out the fire, investigate the cause and finish salvage work.

Whaley said he thought an electrical problem had caused the blaze and said no foul play was involved. Then he turned over the case to the police to determine the exact cause.