Owners ‘devastated’ as fire leaves shop plans in ashes

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Claire Hunter-Jones and Jimmy Gray took over the Verona Stores corner shop in Grouville last August, and had planned to add a bakery and sandwich bar so that it could compete with other businesses in the area.

However, their plans were put on hold indefinitely yesterday morning when a fire broke out, leaving the store badly damaged.

Ms Hunter-Jones said she was inside when the blaze began, and quickly contacted the emergency services who responded to the incident at around 7.40am.

‘I had just had a milk delivery and I was putting it in the storage space at the back,’ she said. ‘I heard the alarm going off and ran into the shop where the freezer was engulfed in flames.’

She added: ‘The smoke was everywhere within seconds and I ran out the back – one of our neighbours had shouted and was coming out. So I ran out to them and said “it’s an electrical fire, I can’t see – have you got a fire extinguisher?” But by the time I went back in I couldn’t see the front of the shop.’

The police confirmed that one person was treated for shock and minor smoke inhalation and that the cause of the fire was under investigation.

The pair said they watched in ‘devastation’ while firefighters brought the inferno under control, and could hear explosions going off inside the store.

‘We asked the firemen what the explosions were and they said it could be jars of food expanding as well as the fridges because they are high pressure,’ said Mr Gray. ‘The best thing she could do was get out as she could have been overcome by the smoke or the explosions. Who knows what could have happened?’

The inside of Verona Stores after the fire had been extinguished. Picture: Jimmy Gray (30870287)

He said he hoped that the business – which stocked local produce and Genuine Jersey products ‘wherever it was practical’ – could make a quick recovery, particularly after the setbacks brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic.

‘Financially we are buried in this shop, so we have to get it back up and running,’ he added.

Grouville Constable John Le Maistre thanked the emergency services for their swift response. The road was closed during the incident and caused traffic issues as Islanders took their children to school.

‘Obviously it was during school drop-off time so the road was unusually busy,’ said the Constable. ‘The owners have only recently taken on the shop so they will be very disappointed.’

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