A fire broke out at the LZ Army Navy store in Auburn Tuesday morning, destroying some irreplaceable memorabilia and causing uncertainty about the store's future.
The Auburn Fire Department Assistant Chief Bill DiFabio said the call came in at 11:53 a.m. at Auburn Plaza, 217 Grant Ave. He said the fire was extinguished in about 15 minutes but the store was extensively damaged.
The fire was determined to be accidental, he continued, but the exact cause was undetermined. There were no injuries. The department spent time investigating, cleaning up and ventilating the adjoining stores. Those adjoining stores experienced some minor smoke but did not get damaged, DiFabio added.
People were allowed to return to the adjoining stores by around 2 p.m. and the AFD cleared the scene by around 3:30 p.m.
Ed King, a military veteran who is the store's co-owner with his wife, Julie, told The Citizen that the fire department said the cause of the fire was electrical, but they weren't exactly sure how it occurred. King said a restoration service determined the store was a total loss.
"I have no idea if we're going to be able to reopen our business or not," King said. "We've been in business 38 years. We're the only Army Navy store around. There is nobody else."
He said he hopes the store will be able to open again in that same spot, but factors such as what the insurance company says and the "extent of clean-up" will be involved, so he feels the store's future is "questionable."
If the store does open again, he said, it would "be in that same location, hopefully." King said the business had various locations over the years, most recently 393 Grant Ave. in Sennett, before it transferred to the Auburn Plaza spot in 2018. After they moved to that current property, he didn't want to move again.
King noted some of the items destroyed in the fire can't be replaced, including items that were over 100 years old, such as memorabilia dating from World War I and the Spanish-American War. He added that his own personal medals that he had on display were destroyed as well.
The store has amassed a strong following over the years, and "we're picking up new people, new customers, all the time," he said. He thanked their past customers for their support.
"As much as I love the business, I just don't know what we're going to do," King said.
Staff writer Kelly Rocheleau can be reached at (315) 282-2243 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @KellyRocheleau.