DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – The owner of an East Dayton grocery store that recently burned down says he plans to rebuild his business.
“I was lost,” said Lutfi Hussein, the owner of Food for Less, of the moments he saw his business burn down. “You didn’t know what to say; you didn’t know what to do. Just sit down and watch.”
Hussein also owns two other grocery stores in Dayton. He opened Food for Less 16 years ago. That store, located on East Third Street, was destroyed in a massive fire on November 9. The cause is still under investigation.
After speaking with the insurance company, Hussein said, he plans to rebuild. Compensation from the fire partly depends on what investigators determine the cause of the blaze to be, he explained.
The new store may need to be slightly smaller, depending on what the insurance company provides, Hussein said.
“We’ll try to make it the way it [was],” Hussein said. “We may do a little bit of alterations to accommodate both communities, the international and the local community. But the idea is to keep it as big as it was if we can.”
But rebuilding takes time. Officials with the Dayton Foodbank said they have weekly food distributions planned for the neighborhood at least through December and are making plans to provide fresh food beyond that time over the long term.
“We know that people are in need,” said Lee Lauren Truesdale of the Dayton Foodbank. “We know that they’re struggling, and it’s such a loss for that community to not have their local grocery.”
People we spoke with in the area said they hope to see Food for Less as part of the neighborhood’s future.
“It’s really important for the people that don’t have transportation or have bus routes and catch the bus or other places to shop in the neighborhood,” said Robert, a neighbor who shopped at the store. “So it’s a good thing for the community.”
“My sympathies to those who live there,” Hussein said. “I’m hurt myself as an owner, but I know a lot of customers are hurt, too, for not having the store. So my heart goes for all those people.”
Hussein had 14 people working at the store said said he expects all of those employees to be compensated for lost wages by the insurance company.
It’s too early to tell when the rebuilding process could begin, Hussein said.