GARRETTSVILLE, Ohio (WKBN) — The state fire marshal began the investigation into the downtown Garrettsville fire on Monday, as shop owners across Main Street feel for their neighbors.
Sherry Quiggle manages the Pasta House restaurant. Quiggle said the business owners across the street are her friends and she feels absolutely helpless after a fire on Saturday destroyed 13 businesses.
“Nothing you can say, nothing you can do is going to help. It’s not going to make it better. We’ve been in every one of these shops. We support these shops. They support us. And their lives are gone,” Quiggle said. “It almost makes you feel guilty for being OK.”
She said she and other business owners are doing what they can to comfort their friends.
“We’ve been open during closed business hours just for coffee, just for some place to come and talk. People need closure. People that don’t live here anymore who come and see the devastation are looking for closure, they’re looking to share a story,” Quiggle said.
She said watching the businesses burn was painful.
“We watched building after building after building. It just wouldn’t stop,” Quiggle said. “They’re our friends. They’re our neighbors. They are a part of our daily lives. It’s just helplessness, absolute helplessness.”
In all, 13 businesses were destroyed by the massive fire. The cause still is under investigation, but the fire marshal’s office said foul play is not suspected.
Officials said the fire apparently started on the roof of one of the buildings, which was being re-tarred.
Chris Gerez of The Villager, a small weekly newspaper, said she also felt helpless watching the fire tear through the entire block.
“It brought tears to your eyes. You can’t believe it’s happening. You can’t believe what’s going on,” Gerez said.
Garrettsville is a close-knit community that now has a hole in the center of town.
“We take care of each other, it’s a family here,” Gerez said. “You can’t help but think how it’s going to affect everybody’s business in town. People would come to shop, to eat, and now those shops are gone, so business-wise, it’s going to be tough for a little while.”
Other businesses in communities surrounding Garrettsville are accepting donations for the food pantry that was destroyed by Saturday’s fire.
For the next two weeks, the Time Out Sports Bar and Grill in Windham is collecting canned goods and other food items and money for the Nelson Garrettsville Community Cupboard. Employees said the bar’s owner decided to start the drive to help out those affected by the devastation.
“It’s very sad. I feel for all the people out there that lost their work and it’s been here since the 1850s. It’s just a sad thing,” said Time Out Sports Bar employee Danielle Whited.
Donations can be dropped off at the bar, which is located on state Route 303 in Windham.