An iconic business in Wise, VA goes up in flames; owner vows to rebuild
WISE, Va. - It's a big loss for a small southwest Virginia town, as a long standing business goes up in flames on Monday night.
Investigators haven't determined a cause yet, but say the fire broke out at the Wise Lumber and Supply Company just before midnight on Monday. It took nearly three dozen firefighters to put out the flames, and the extreme cold didn't help.
"It's a total loss," Wise County Volunteer Fire Chief Duane Phillips says. "The outside of the structure is still standing but everything on the inside is pretty much gutted."
The Wise Lumber and Supply Company has been a staple of the town of Wise since it opened in the 1950s. It was sold in the 70s, and since then has been owned by the same family.
"You work your whole life for everything, you give everything you got into something, and all of a sudden you turn around and your life changed," third generation owner Thomas Kennedy tells News 5.
The store is right smack in the middle of downtown, and some even call it the backbone of the community.
"This is an amazing business and a tragic loss," Ken Riley, a long-time customer, says.
Riley went on to explain that as soon as he found out about the fire, his first concerns were for the hardworking staff. For the employees, it's these types of relationships that made working at Wise Lumber and Supply Company an unforgettable experience.
"I don't want to work anywhere else," Michael Pedersen, a long-time employee at the store, says. "The people that come in here, I cared about them."
While the store and most of the supplies were damaged by the fire, the lumber yard and most of the trucks were unharmed. Pedersen says they still have the ability to do deliveries.
So now, the question is what's next for the business. Kennedy says he hopes to have the delivery and construction portion of his services back up and running in some capacity by the end of this week. But he says his end goal is to rebuild the entire store front.
"We want to put [the business] back," Kennedy says. "We want to remain a part of the community."
Kennedy went on to say that he's beyond thankful for the outpouring of community support he's received so far.