A Sturgeon Falls institution will be shuttered for the start of summer, after a May 15 fire did severe damage to the inside of Larry’s Chip Stand on the corner of Main and Front Streets.
West Nipissing fire service crews were able to suppress the Saturday evening blaze before it damaged the overall structure, but fire chief Richard Maranda says it could be a while before the fryers are going again.
“We got the call at 9 p.m. The fire truck got there within three minutes. We had 18 firefighters on the scene,” says Maranda. “The firefighters did a terrific job, they hit it just in time. Unfortunately, there’s quite a bit of damage within the building… the inside would have to be all redone completely. It was a very hot fire, mind you.”
Nobody was injured in the blaze; Maranda says the last employees left over an hour before firefighters got the call from a passerby who saw smoke billowing out of the building. Crews were on scene until midnight keeping an eye on things.
“They knocked down the heavy flames and then the overhaul started – which is looking for hidden fires – there’s a lot of combustibles in there, everything is in boxes, everything is paper and cardboard.”
The fire started in the stockroom, but the cause is still under investigation by the Office of the Fire Marshal.
“It’s going to be closed for a little bit,” says Maranda. “They’ve got quite a bit of work inside the building to reopen, so unfortunately for both the owners and the employees, they’ll be out of a job for a while.”
Maranda notes Larry’s did have insurance. However, owners Ivan Brule and Lori Rivet did not wish to speak to any media at this time, so it’s unclear when the chip stand will be up and running again.
There’s been an outpouring of grief and support from the West Nipissing community and beyond in the week that followed the fire.
“From our part, we’re just sad to see it happen to them,” says Bruno Lepage, who owns RIV Chip Stand with partner Kate, across the street from Larry’s. Though the two stands have had a healthy competition over their near 50-year history, Lepage says their relationship is definitely very friendly and he hopes that the cross-street stand is back on its feet soon.
“Obviously, you don’t wish that on anybody. We wish them a speedy return to the business and wish them all the best of luck.”
Locals have been posting thoughts, memories and stories about Larry’s – which has been around since the mid 60s – on social media as well. That includes Line and Roch Rochon, owners of Nipissing Home Improvements, who say Larry’s is a big part of their lives – they even had wedding photos taken there.
“We met there on May 24th, 2014,” recounts Line. “It was the first time we ever saw each other. Ever since then, Larry’s has always been our family go-to. We often talk about our first date while eating our poutines. We had just talked about printing out a photo of our wedding day for the chip stand a few days before the fire. We will get one printed for them. We look forward to our pogos and poutines, after all, Larry’s is a part of our love story.”
The couple was particularly sympathetic to this event after losing their home in a fire one spring ago.
For those looking to contribute to Larry’s rebuilding effort, the Rx Drug Mart has organized a 50/50 raffle to help the chip stand get back on its feet. Tickets are on sale until June 3 at their front counter. Organizer Daina Malette says Brule and Rivet were “extremely happy” when she told them about the raffle.
Last year, the drug mart’s raffle raised more than $800 to support the Sturgeon Falls Beautification Committee.