It was a night that rocked the Southington community.
“Just horrifying,” said Betsy Tooker, co-owner of Tops Marketplace.
“We were shocked,” said John Salerno, Tops co-owner.
That night was March 3rd, when huge flames shot into the sky right through the roof of Tops Marketplace — a staple in Southington where many families have done their grocery shopping since it opened in 1951.
Now, after the fire, the future is in doubt.
“Sometimes we just close our eyes and think like it’s not real,” Tooker said.
“I think we’re all pretty devastated,” Salerno said.
This week, demolition crews began their work on the store site. But, while they’re tearing down what’s left of the charred store, the community is doing what it can to try and pick up the owners and Tops workers.
“The community has been just unbelievable,” Salerno said.
Some residents have started GoFundMe accounts to raise money for Tops’ Rebuilding Hopes. A business called The Aqua Turf Club and Southington Catholic School have allowed Tops workers to use their kitchens to continue the store’s catering business and keep money coming in. That means the world to workers like Jose Purtillo, who can still count on paychecks to keep coming in.
“It’s amazing that we still have a place where we can go and work,” said Purtillo. “So we can all support our families.”
“When the offer came out from Southington Catholic to use their kitchen, a light went on,” Salerno said.
That light got brighter when a teacher at Southington Catholic listened to a student and created a Zumba exercise event, which raised $600 this week.
“When we saw that Tops Market burned down we were all devastated,” said Candi Muro, a teacher at Southington Catholic School. “Myself, my kids, we go there all the time.”
“We said you know — a donation of ten dollars or more and all proceeds would go to Tops Market,” she said. “And the families were very generous.”
The gestures of goodwill are touching many hearts at a trying time.
“Thank God for everyone who’s been so gracious,” Tooker said.