By Kassie Simmons | February 1, 2021 at 7:30 PM EST – Updated February 1 at 8:25 PM
SHALLOTTE, N.C. (WECT) – Neighbors watched as a fire quickly engulfed an optometrist’s office early Monday morning.
“They have a total loss and they have the biggest hearts in the county,” said Monique Holenko, who owns the bakery next door. “They employ a lot of people and they have several other offices but I know their hearts are with the people that work for them. I know that it’s very difficult for them.”
Dispatchers sent crews to the scene at 6:08 a.m. By the time they arrived at 6:11, witnesses say Vision Square Eye Care was already fully involved. It’s believed the fire started on the far right end of the center and made its way through the building. The flames closed part of the street and threatened other businesses as well.
Owners say they lost all of their state-of-the-art equipment. All they could salvage from the ashes was a few computers that had been stored in a conference room. That room mostly suffered smoke damage.
Only a wall separated the eye care center from Sugar Confections. The bakery was closed last month in preparation for the New Year, but employees were supposed to return today and prepare to reopen next week.
“Our first report was that our building was going to be totaled and we weren’t going to be able to reopen. It seems, after the fire marshal looked at things, that there is a possibility that we will be able to reopen because it’s a separate building than what was burned and it never breached the wall. So, that’s great.”
Crews are still investigating. Fire Chief Paul Dunwell says there is no estimate as to when a cause will be determined.
“I was worried about, obviously, our landlord and his business. They have a lot of employees there, but it was early enough that no one could be here. I was thankful that no one was in the building. For it to happen at the time that it did was very good.”
Luckily, no one was in the optometrist’s office. Had the fire happened just an hour later, the building would have been filled with about 30 employees. Some of those employees have been with the center since it opened 27 years ago. It’s unclear if those employees will move to one of the other two Vision Square Eye Care locations or if the business plans to rebuild.
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