Despite the swift re-opening of the St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market following last week’s fire, the community and local vendors continue to mourn over the loss of a beloved landmark. The fire began Sept. 2, around 1:45 a.m., completely destroying one of the market’s main buildings.
Many of the market’s vendors have been able to return to work, but it is not without considerable struggle.
“It was my life,” said Mary Papadopoulos, who has a booth at the market. “23 years, Thursday and Saturday, I’ve been here. Every week, every week.”
Papdopoulos was able to reopen her booth following the fire, as hers is located in a neighbouring building, but she was devastated by the loss to her fellow community members.
“I’m glad that I still can,” she said. “But I feel so sorry about the other people, you know, the rest of the people. They lost their jobs, they lost their stock, business. It’s hard. It’s very hard.”
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne visited the market last weekend and was keen on the vendors’ perseverance despite their loss.
“I have a strong belief in Farmers’ Markets and local foods as a driver of the economy,” said Wynne. “I want to see farmers’ markets expand. So when I saw this iconic market was in trouble, I wanted to make sure I was here to say, ‘it’s open,’ I want people to come and understand that the vendors are here. I really wanted to just come as a show of support.”
Devin Petteplace, communications coordinator for Woolwich Township, explained that the Market was cleared for re-open by Woolwich Fire Department last Wednesday morning. The cause of the fire has yet to be determined by the Ontario Fire Marshal.
“They turned the site back over to the owners,” he said. “They did pull some material from the site and they’re taking it back to their labs for further study. There is no set timeline for when they will have their decision. Like with any investigation they are going to take their time and make sure they have absolute information before coming forward with any causes that they can find.”
Petteplace could not say how soon the Fire Marshal would be able to release the exact cause of the fire, nor could he determine whether arson was believed to have been involved. It was reported last week that the damages from the fire could be up to $2 million.
“They never rule anything out until they have a final determination. That’s not to say they are considering [arson], but they never rule anything out officially until the investigation is complete. He sort of indicated that he had no reason to suspect arson.”
Petteplace acknowledged that the fire last week indeed resulted in a great loss to the community, but he was adamant that the Market will persevere.
“The Market was an icon,” he said. “But it’s also important to note, too, that it was just the main building. You know a lot of the press coverage was ‘market destroyed’ and that sort of sent the message that there will be no market, when in fact the market opened on time on Thursday … While the damage was significant to the main building, for the market overall it is business as usual in a lot of ways.”