SUGARCREEK — The Walnut Creek Amish Country Flea Market suffered extensive damage from an early morning fire Wednesday.
The cause of the fire is still unclear, Sugarcreek Fire Department Chief Kevin Miller said.
Fire investigators were on the scene Wednesday morning with the State Fire Marshall to determine the cause, said Holmes County Sheriff’s Department Chief Deputy Richard Haun.
Miller said firefighters were able to keep the flames contained between two firewalls near the center of the structure at 1900 State Route 39 in Holmes County. But other areas of the building suffered smoke and water damage.
Fire crews arrived on the scene around 4 a.m. after the Sugarcreek Fire Department received a call of a structure fire with flames showing through the roof, Miller said.
There were no injuries and no one was inside the building when the fire started, Miller said.
Miller estimated about 20 local fire stations answered the call, including Dover, Baltic and Wayne Townships. Three ladder trucks were on scene, Miller said.
"We ran out of water in about 30 seconds, which for a rural fire with no hydrants, is pretty good," Miller said. "An adequate water source was our biggest challenge."
The business is owned by Richard and Betty Zimmerman and their daughter January Tango. The family began receiving calls from vendors asking about the fire at around 4 a.m., Betty Zimmerman said. They arrived at the scene at 4:30 a.m., Richard Zimmerman said.
The Walnut Creek Amish Country Flea Market is roughly 55,000 square feet and holds 50 venders, said the Zimmermans, who started the flea market 11 years ago.
"It’s not a business, it’s a family," said a teary-eyed Betty Zimmerman. "It’s our livelihood, our income."
The market includes vendors selling furniture, jewelry, crafts as well as baked goods. Granda Schrocks Kitchen serves burgers, soup and baked items inside the market.
Tango said the family’s insurance agent was on the scene to determine the cost of the damage, but she said it’s not looking good.
"It’s not just a loss for us," said Tango. "It’s a loss for everyone."
Due to the fire, State Route 39 was closed in both directions between Township Road 420 and State Route 93 for most of the morning, according to ODOT. The route reopened around 11:30 a.m., ODOT said.
Dee Grossman, the executive director for the Tuscarawas County Convention and Visitors Bureau, said that the market is a huge tourist draw for the area.
"Our visitors love that flea market," Grossman said. "They love that kind of shopping, they love interacting with local folks. I think this is going to hugely impact us."
Grossman said the flea market is a popular stop for many of the bus tours that run through Amish Country. While she is unaware of any tours currently scheduled to stop there, the Visitors Bureau is currently working on rerouting those tours as necessary, Grossman said.
"It’ll force us and Holmes County to redirect some of the business that the flea market would have had into maybe some of our other antique stores or some of our other retail establishments," she said.
Grossman said some of the vendors may be able to move to other locations, at least temporarily. But others may not recover from this loss, she said.
"I feel badly for the vendors who lost their product," Grossman said. "That’s a big loss. I don’t know how some of the vendors will be able to regroup, because if they didn’t have insurance on their product they couldn’t even afford to rebuy."