© 2024 WOSU Public Media
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Fire destroys long time south side Columbus grocery store

A long-time corner grocery store on Columbus' south side was destroyed in a fire early Monday morning.

Columbus Division of Fire Battalion Chief Steve Martin told WOSU that a 911 call from a passerby alerted dispatch to a fire at 786 East Whittier Street at 2:45 a.m. Firefighters quickly responded and began battling the blaze inside Jequeta's #2 grocery store.

Martin said firefighters quickly went into defensive mode when battling the blaze to try to contain the fire.

The fire crews attended to hot spots into the late morning and finally extinguished the blaze around 11 a.m.

No one was hurt in the fire, but one firefighter was taken to Grant Medical Center for a medical condition and was described as stable, Martin said.

By late morning, the fire had also damaged two other store fronts, both of which were vacant. The smell of smoke still wafted through the neighborhood.

Building owner Mohammad Ittayem arrived just after 11 a.m. with his family to survey the ashes and charred ruins.

Ittayem wants answers to what happened. He found out about the blaze in the early morning when the business owner called him.

"It's just shock, you know. How the hell is the store on fire? And especially early this morning at 3 o'clock in the morning. Why would it be on fire?" he said.

Ittayem pointed out that a police surveillance camera is right at that corner and may have captured what happened.

He said if the fire was intentional, he hopes the person responsible is charged.

Ittayem said he's owned the property since 1984 shortly after he moved to Columbus from Michigan. He now lives in Tampa Bay, but still owns the property and collects rent from Jequeta's owner, who he did not identify.

He said the storefront has always been a grocery store, long before he owned it. The property has changed hands over the years and he bought it from a family member.

Itayyem said the store owner said the business was insured, but Ittayem hasn't confirmed this. He said Jequeta's may be rebuilt if there's enough financial help.

"If it doesn't cost that much to rebuild it, I will rebuild and own it myself," Ittayem said.

Crews are still investigating what caused the fire.

George Shillcock is a reporter for 89.7 NPR News. He joined the WOSU newsroom in April 2023 following three years as a reporter in Iowa with the USA Today Network.