Fire destroys 70-year-old country store

February 12, 2004|LIZ MAPLES

NINA RIDGE - A fire Tuesday ate the 70-year-old country store here down to its shell, leaving not much more than memories of a community's gathering place.

Freda Johnson had just finished with the lunch crowd Tuesday afternoon, and was in the office when she heard a crackling and pop come from the kitchen. A grease fire had started in a pan, she said.

She put it out and came outside to call her husband, Johnny Johnson. The fire took hold of the building.

Fire investigators have not named a cause, but there is speculation by the owners that it could have been grease or electrical.

"Being an old building, it was just a powder keg," said Steve Moore, the Johnson's son and co-owner of the store.


Moore wants to resurrect the store. To him it is an important part of the area's history.

The store has been in operation, off and on, since the 1930s. Once it was part of the Nina Ridge schoolhouse. When a brick school was built, the wood structure was moved and turned into a store for goods.

Moore said he heard that in its heyday, when the area was still called Spoonville, it was one of three stores on the road, along with a blacksmith shop, stables and a post office. At the store, people could barter chicken and eggs for groceries, and pick up their mail order packages that were dropped off at the rail station.

Moore's earliest personal memories of the store begin in the 1960s when it sold hardware and work clothes.

In 1993, Moore and the Johnsons bought the store. They renovated the building and opened it up as a grocery, deli and collectibles store. There were old pictures on the wall, the original potbelly stove and plenty of customers who could reminisce.

One famous story is about chicken door

One famous story is about the chicken door. One set of owners had a trap door in the store that they used to drop live chickens into a pen that was built under the building. Boys would come in the store and trade a rooster for a soda pop. The rooster would be dropped down the door, then they would run outside, break out their rooster and try to trade it in again for another pop.

On Wednesday, there was a steady stream of customers sharing such stories.

Johnny Johnson had been at the store since early that morning, sifting through the charred remains for anything valuable. In his van, he had a burnt Thomas Edison phonograph that was in working order before the fire, and his mama's cast iron skillet.

"To some people this stuff may not be valuable, but to me you couldn't put a price on it," he said.

Moore wants to rebuild the store, and said he already has thought of some improvements, but said they want to keep the historic appearance.

Three Garrard County volunteer fire departments responded to the fire: Buckeye, Camp Dick and District 1.

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