“I just couldn't let it go,” said John Salerno, co-owner with Betsy Tooker of Tops Market, on Meriden-Waterbury Turnpike in Southington. The store was destroyed by fire on March 3.
And indeed they aren’t letting it go. Town officials are working with the owners to fast-track the rebuilding of the store, with construction expected to start in August for a February 2020 reopening.
Which is good news because Tops is a local institution — the last of many independent grocery stores that used to cater to the needs of Southington residents. Most of those stores (for those who still remember them) were small, neighborhood groceries, back when fewer people had cars and life took place at a slower pace.
But Tops eventually grew to supermarket size.
As we wrote in this space back in March, a place like Tops Marketplace holds a special spot in a community's heart. Such places are more than just businesses — they are a part of a community's fabric. So when disaster strikes, the pain is felt by the entire community.
“People are very emotional about this,” observed Art Secondo, a former chamber of commerce president.
Salerno and Tooker are known for their generosity with town charities and recognized for their contributions toward community causes. They were grand marshals of the Apple Harvest Festival parade in 2006.
A line of credit helped the store owners close the funding gap between the actual cost to rebuild and what the insurance company will pay.
“I could have walked away with money,” Salerno said. “Instead I'm walking away in debt.”
May Tops Market rise from the ashes to serve the community once again.