Earlier this month, Southington’s long-standing and beloved Tops Marketplace was ravaged by a devastating fire, completely destroying the long-standing business that was a favorite with locals. Despite the devastation, the shop’s owner, John Salerno, vows to rebuild the store and the business.
Tops Marketplace was an icon in the Southington community, having stood in the same spot for some 68 years. Salerno bought the grocery store from the Topshe family 40 years ago and vowed to keep it as an independent supermarket, despite the growing popularity of chains and franchises.
During that time, Tops became a fixture in the Southington neighborhood, and many residents lamented the loss as news of the devastating blaze spread. Quite a number of area Facebook pages were flooded with supportive messages from regular shoppers and nearby business owners, many of whom also posted pleas for the store to reopen as soon as possible.
Sana Saeed, whose grandfather’s Tobacco Plus shop is located next to Tops, agreed with the sentiment, noting that her sister’s friends worked at the store and that many Southington High School students also found part-time jobs there over the years. She also noted how locals would often get groceries at Tops and then visit her grandfather’s shop afterwards. “The owners are really wonderful people,” she was quoted as saying.
Salerno was known to favor the small town feeling for his Southington store, emphasizing the hiring of locals and promoting customer service. The family and its business were also known for supporting many charities, including The United Way and The Unico Club, among others.
A cause for the blaze has not yet been determined but witnesses say that a passerby noticed smoke coming from the roof of the store and immediately ran inside to alert staff and customers, who had only minutes to flee before the fire spead. More than 40 firefighters worked for hours in a sudden snowfall to get the blaze under control and, while no injuries were reported, very little of the store or its contents could be salvaged. Contractors were soon brought in to tear down the ravaged store and begin cleanup efforts.
In their efforts to rebuild, co-owner Betsy Tooker launched a Go Fund Me page, asking the neighborhood’s help in raising funds to cover expenses beyond what their insurance would reimburse. Tooker noted that all proceeds would be funneled back to the community even if the store were to reopen, with the business once again becoming sponsors of favorite local charities.
Even with charity sponsorships, many residents understand the importance of the Tops market to its surrounding neighborhood. “It’s the only grocery store in the south end of town, and it had a fiercely loyal customer base,” fire chief Glenn Dube of the Southington Fire Department was quoted as saying to one newspaper. “The owners are good people. I hope they rebuild. It’s such a loss to the community. This is tough.”
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