Community mourns after fire destroys century-old general store in Williamsville, Mo.

The Williamsville community is mourning the loss of a community staple.
Published: Nov. 1, 2022 at 12:13 AM CDT|Updated: Nov. 1, 2022 at 8:42 PM CDT
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WILLIAMSVILLE, Mo. (KFVS) - A Heartland community is heartbroken after a fire burned down a stable in their town.

Crews battled a large fire at a grocery store and a neighboring apartment building in Williamsville, Missouri.

Firefighters were first called to Holmes Store around 9 p.m. on Monday, October 31.

According to Wayne County Sheriff Dean Finch, the fire at the store spread to an apartment building.

Sheriff Finch said one person was living in the apartment and was able to get out safely.

No injuries have been reported.

Around 6:45 a.m. on Tuesday, Finch said the building was still fully involved and every available fire truck in the county was called to the scene.

That included crews from Butler County, Van Buren, Ellsinore and Farmington.

Finch said no other buildings are in danger, but the grocery store and apartment building are a complete loss.

Finch said the apartment building dates back to the 1800s and the loss of Holmes Store means the closest grocery store is now approximately 25 miles away, in Poplar Bluff.

Residents said the Holmes Store was the main place people went to buy nearly anything.

Mayor Sandy Joy described it as a neat place.

The general store was a gathering place in a small town of 300 people.

“It wasn’t just a walk-in grocery store, they had everything you wanted in there, hardware, plumbing, you know,” resident John Dale Sanders said. “It’s an old time store and it stayed that way until last night.”

Louis Warmack has lived in the house behind Holmes for about 40 years.

“We noticed it right away and told the fire department smoke was comin’ out,” he said.

John Dale Sanders has spent 71 years here. He said everyone came as soon as they heard.

“Everybody just turns out and does anything they can to help.”

Mayor Joy said she’s been going to the store since she was a kid.

“So valued, it was much more than a store,” she said. “It was our community. It’s like a death and we’re all grieving, and I think we will for a very long time.”

Aside from the sentimental value, residents now have a very real issue.

“You gotta go to the minimart now, and they’re not equipped to handle people coming and going everyday,” Sanders said.

They say they can make a trek for groceries, but nothing will take the place of Holmes.

“Even after this fire goes out, even after it’s cleaned up, I think we’ll still be grieving,” Mayor Joy said.

The State Fire Marshal was called to the scene on Tuesday and is investigating the cause.