LENOIR, N.C. (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE)- The owner of a small-town thrift shop is still sifting through the ashes to save anything he still can after a massive fire. The blaze ripped through the Dollars for Mission Thrift Store in Lenoir Tuesday night leaving very little left.
“I got a call from a friend saying that he thinks my store is on fire, you know. And so…it’s surreal. You don’t think that’s really this doesn’t happen to me. Doesn’t have to as it happens to other people,” store owner Tom Wallace said.
Firefighters say the flames broke out around 6:30 p.m. Tuesday and tore through the building. The damage is truly devastating, but luckily no one was injured. Wallace says although the damage is extreme, he’s thankful for that because a few minutes’ difference could have been deadly.
“I was supposed to have a guy working on the heater up above and he was supposed to be there at that time,” Wallace said. “I called him thinking, ‘oh, my goodness, maybe something’s happened.’ And fortunately, he wasn’t even there yet. He was late.”
Wallace told FOX 46 that the fire comes just a few weeks after they were finally starting to get back to normal after COVID restrictions began to loosen.
“We’ve had a few challenges since we started COVID has been, you know, a setback for us and many, many others, and a lot of our staff were out because of quarantine and stuff,” he said. “But we were just getting back. Our sales were just starting to pick back up.”
The mantra of the thrift store is based on a Bible verse that reads “Believers sold their possessions to help the needs of others.”
At one point, Wallace and his wife, were traveling missionaries. But they finally settled down in the small town of Lenoir and bought the thrift shop. They had owned it for just two years before this fire broke out.
They’ve been donating about $1,000 a month to local missionaries. Now that the store has burned down, Wallace says he’s extremely disappointed they won’t be able to contribute for the time being,
“Our goal is to be able to give away about $5,000 a month we think this store, once it gets built back again, has that potential and that’s our purpose. We were just doing this to help missionaries and so God has a plan for this,” Wallace said.
The cause of the fire is still being investigated but the assistant fire chief says they have some idea of what could’ve happened.
“Some electrical things that we found on the inside, and we would love to call it electrical, but unless we can prove you know, that’s what it is we put it down as what’s called undetermined,” Assistant Fire Chief Chris Jacobs said.
Insurance is still estimating the damage but from the looks of it, Wallace said it would be thousands of dollars worth of losses.