UNITY — Members of the Amish community on Friday were vowing to rebuild a popular general store that was a community hub and “one-stop shop” in Unity destroyed by fire a day earlier.

The charred remains of the Unity Community Market were still smoldering 24 hours after flames quickly consumed the store on Thorndike Road. A backhoe was used to clear away debris and allow hotspots to cool.

The market opened in 2010 and offered everything from fresh fruit and vegetables to handmade furniture, tools, apparel and baked goods, including fried doughnuts that were “to die for,” according to Melissa Ferris, a Waterville resident who was a regular patron.

“They’ve got everything from A to Z in that store that a person can actually use,” Ferris said Friday.

Ferris and her friend Kelly Noyes were gathering support on social media for the market and the Amish community that owns and operates it, asking for donations of money, lumber and building supplies.

Donations can be made to a savings account for the Unity Community Market that has been set up at Downeast Credit Union.

Advertisement

Owner Caleb Stoll said that he plans to rebuild as soon as it’s feasible, which will be important for some in the Amish community as working at the store was their source of income.

“It supplies the community with our needs … plus it provides a market, an outlet for products, and it also provides employment for community members,” Stoll said. “It is a very vital part of the community.”

He said there was no insurance on the building because the concept of such coverage runs counter to Amish beliefs.

“We help each other a tremendous amount,” Stoll said, noting that the community will eventually come together to rebuild.

Stoll is the bishop of an Amish community that began settling in Unity and Thorndike in 2008, where they found workable farmland with a sufficient amount of land for their needs. There are about 25 families and between 150 and 200 people who belong to the community.

The Amish also run a handful of other businesses in the area such as a bike shop, charcuterie store, an engine shop, a grocery store, and a metal roofing and siding outlet.

Advertisement

Unity and surrounding towns have been welcoming and supportive of the Amish and motorists are considerate when passing their horses and buggies on the roads, Stoll said.

“It’s been an excellent place to live,” he said.

Ferris called the loss of the market “devastating” and said it was packed with people on many days. She said people came from around the region to shop at the store, especially to sample the “famous” doughnuts.

“I feel they have gone above and beyond for us in many ways,” Ferris said of the Amish in the area. “The community totally loved that place.”

Unity Planning Board Chairman Don Newell said a person could find most anything one would need at the market and over the years he’s purchased boots, tools and flashlights there. He tries to stay away from the honey-glazed doughnuts because they are “addictive,” he said with a chuckle.

“They did a great job bringing in high-quality products and pricing it at a great price,” Newell said.

Advertisement

When he was walking by the fire scene Thursday, he said he talked to a woman from Belfast who said she makes it a point to travel to the store every Wednesday to get the doughnuts and see what new products had been stocked.

The call for the fire came in at approximately 2:35 p.m. Thursday and the building was fully involved when crews arrived, according to Unity fire Chief Blaine Parsons.

“It was defensive mode,” he said.

There were no reports of injuries.

The cause of the fire is under investigation by the Office of State Fire Marshal and there is no reason to suspect foul play, said Shannon Moss, spokeswoman for the state Department of Public Safety.

Several other fire departments assisted Unity in responding, including Albion, Brooks, Burnham, Fairfield, Freedom, Liberty, Montville, Thorndike, Troy and Winslow.

“We had to call in so many towns due to the lack of manpower for fire departments to efficiently work an active fire,” Parsons said.

The main fire was out between 7 and 7:30 p.m. and the scene was cleared by 11 p.m., he said.

Stoll said as soon as the property is cleaned up, he will join his Amish neighbors in formulating a plan to resurrect the market.

Related Headlines


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: