SOUTHINGTON, Conn. (WTNH) — John Salerno couldn’t believe it.
“And then I got numb,” he said.
That was his reaction to a large fire in March that destroyed his business — a beloved family grocery store in Southington called Tops Marketplace.
“I get this pit in my stomach,” he said. “Did this really happen?”
Tops had been part of the fabric of the Southington community since 1951. John has owned it since 1979. The fire sparked a lot of concern from the public, hoping that the owners could someday recover and rebuild.
It looks like they’ll get their wish early next year. Listen to what John told News 8 Thursday:
“We are going to be able to reopen and we are hoping that will be February,” John said.
It has been a long and difficult road to rebuilding. First — the finances. John says the total cost to rebuild is $3.8 million. He, the other owner, and others have been able to come up with $3.3. million, which almost turned the rebuilding dream into a nightmare.
“I always said if we’re short, we’re not going to do this,” John said. “We’re not going to do it. The more we said we weren’t going to do it, the more we just kept going forward and tried to figure out a way how to do it.”
That’s where help from the Southington community came in. Tops was able to maintain the catering part of their business. In order to keep that going, Southington businesses like the Southington Catholic school and the Aqua Turf Club lent Tops workers space in their kitchens to be able to prepare the meals. Others in the community also started fundraisers for Tops. That love from the people of Southington overwhelmed John.
“Incredible,” John said. “People are always stopping us wishing us well.”
John also took other steps. He became an Uber driver.
“Oh God this has been my income,” John said. “By doing this, I can help shorten that — close that gap between what we have and what we need to rebuild.”
John has faced more than financial challenges. While all of this is going on, he was just hit by the news that two of his family members are facing critical medical emergencies.
“I can’t describe it,” John said. “We’re trying to work. We’re trying to build a building. We’re trying to be supportive to our family. It’s tough.”
But, John isn’t giving up. He has faith that whatever pain he’s had to endure throughout this entire ordeal that in the end — in February — it will be worth it.
“Someone told me in life there are many resurrections,” he said. “I will be happy because all of this will be behind us.”