Fire strikes historic small town grocery store in Trumbull County


WEST FARMINGTON, Ohio (WYTV) – Cleanup continues Monday in the heart of a Trumbull County town after a local business was destroyed by a fire.

The damage at Bontrager Groceries on College Street in West Farmington is overwhelming.

The owner left at 3:00 Sunday afternoon but by 4:30, fire alarms started blasting.

It’s having a big impact on the small town. Owner Kevin Bontrager said the entire community is feeling it.

Several kids in town helped as firefighters saved many of Farmington’s historical items inside.

“It was stuff that was irreplaceable to the community so they know that was really important. That’s all we told the fire department. ‘We don’t care what happens to the rest, can we please get to that stuff?'” Julie Bontrager said.

Those items included ledger books dating back to 1817 and things left over when the school closed.

“The young kids, they lined up and they just carried whatever the fire department handed them,” Julie Bontrager said.

Between the smoke and water damage, most of the building is destroyed.

Bontrager’s was sentimental for Fire Chief John Bland.

“I did have a personal touch, as my grandparents owned it 20 years ago for 30 years. My father and all my aunts grew up there,” he said.

It was called Bland’s back then.

The building had also been a dance hall and still had a ticket booth upstairs. Construction was done in 1878 and a second section was added in 1902.

“That building is over 100 years old. It’s been everything from a dance hall back to the horse-drawn days, to numerous different grocery stores. So that building has a lot of history,” Bland said.

It had always been the place to go in West Farmington.

“When you thought of West Farmington, this is the place you thought of first. ‘Hey, there’s that little corner store, Bontrager’s, that you can go to and get whatever you needed,'” resident Jessica Lilley said.

A gallon of milk, a loaf of bread — all gone now. But the locals will have years of memories.

The Bontragers are waiting to see what’s next for them.

“We want to do the best thing for the community and for safety’s sake. If the building’s salvageable and they think it can be saved, we’d love to do that. If they think it has to come down, then we’ll start considering our options after that,” Julie Bontrager said.

The Bontragers bought the building in 2010 but had been running the business for 11 years.

Nine fire departments worked together to fight the fire and save those historical items inside.