Hellyer’s Foodland Projected To Be Closed For Months

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Photo: Local Fire Departments work to extinguish the fire at Hellyer's Foodland, August 29, 2023.

Sustains Over $1 Million in Damages Due To Fire

By Joanne Rodgers, Bruce Peninsula Press

Midafternoon on 29 August, while maintenance work was being performed, a fire was inadvertently started at Hellyer’s Foodland in Lion’s Head. The workmen responded quickly, with assistance from Scott’s Home Hardware – staff quickly brought out fire extinguishers to help, but the fire could not be contained.

By about 2:30 p.m. the local Fire Department received a report of initial flames coming out of the exterior walls of the building.

The Lion’s Head Fire Department was first to arrive on scene, their quick attack on the flames helped stop the spread of the fire. Tobermory and Wiarton Fire Departments were called to assist. They were joined by Owen Sound Fire Department’s aerial fire truck. A total of eight fire vehicles attended the scene and about 40 firefighters. Webster Street, Main Street (from Edgewood Street to Mill Street) and a segment of Helen Street (Mill to Webster) were closed to vehicular traffic.  

Fire Chief of the Northern Bruce Peninsula Jack Burt says the fire is not suspicious, they know the cause and have eye witness reports. He estimates the damage to be between $1 million – $1.5 million. Damage to the building is mostly on the exterior and on the roof and there is water damage.

Photo: The Owen Sound Fire department trenching on the roof, using thermal imaging to seek out hotspots. Cutting holes to vent the smoke and/or cut holes to find hotspots.

The concern regarding the fire, says Chief Burt, was due to construction of the 90-year-old building being of a balloon frame. This means the studs run continuously from the bottom to top of the building, which allows the fire to move uninterrupted. Five and half hours later the fire crews were still on the job. The work involved trenching the roof, using thermal imaging to seek out hotspots, and cutting holes to vent the smoke. Fire crews also checked floor by floor to ensure there were no other hotspots.

As the fire started to move upwards from the basement, Foodland staff say the grocery store was getting progressively smokier and began to evacuate the building.  Even though the grocery store was fairly busy that Tuesday afternoon, there was an orderly exit and no one was injured.

Photo: Some of the Hellyer’s staff working on the day of the fire (L-R) Leann, Natasha, Tammy, Keri, Joann, Nancy, and Aletha. Quick thinking staff directed patrons out of the store and led everyone to safety. There were no injuries reported.
Photo: It was Courtney’s first day at work. While working in the vegetable room she noticed the smoke coming up from the basement. She says she helped people out of the store, directed traffic and was also asked to call 911, giving an eyewitness report to the police.

It was Courtney’s first day on the job, she was working in the vegetable room and noticed the smoke coming up from the basement. She says she helped people out of the grocery store, directed traffic and was also asked to call 911, giving an eyewitness report to the police. A little shaken, she joined the rest of the staff as they anxiously looked on for the next few hours at all of the activity involved in controlling the fire.

The Municipality issued a statement thanking the following organizations for their efforts: the Northern Bruce Peninsula Fire Department, Northern Bruce Peninsula Facilities and Public Works Departments, South Bruce Peninsula Fire Department, Owen Sound Fire Department, Cape Croker Police, OPP and Bruce County EMS. 

Foodland will not be operational for months

Kyle and Kara Hellyer say their family run grocery store of five generations will be closed for months. In 1934, the original store burned to the ground and was rebuilt six months later, so this isn’t the first BIG fire. They are currently awaiting a report from the structural engineer, hopefully available this week. 

Photo Credit: Bruce County Museum & Cultural Centre Photo: There have been five generations of grocery services by the Greig/Hellyer family to Lion’s Head and surrounding communities. Above: Moore’s Store (photo circa 1908) was sold to Roy Norman (R.N) Greig and Son (1st generation), then onto Morgan Greig (2nd generation), then to Jeanette Hellyer (Greig) and Bob Hellyer (3rd generation), onto Steve and Kathy Hellyer (4th generation) and finally Kyle and Kara Hellyer (5th generation).
Photo Courtesy of Kyle and Kara Hellyer Photo: In 1934 there was a fire at the original store. The rebuilt store (shown here) was able to open 6 months later.
Photo Courtesy of Kyle and Kara Hellyer Photo: Hellyer’s Lucky Dollar Store Inc. circa 1983.

The store was without power for more than 26 hours after the fire which was detrimental to the dairy, meat and produce items. The grocery store, through their insurance provider, was able to donate two truckloads of produce to the Elmvale Zoo. Through the insurance provider, the remaining stock will be appraised. About 80% of the items have been inventoried and removed from the store. The rest will be removed this week and appraised. 

All of the historical documents and memorabilia in the store were saved by the quick action of the fire service. 

The Hellyers – Kyle and Kara, Steve and Kathy, Bob and Jeanette, are appreciative of all the support, messages and offers for help that they received from the community. They and their families and a few staff members, along with the restoration company, have already worked countless hours with inventory, and they are back at it again this week. They are pleased to see the community rally together to help others that need to access food and other grocery supplies.

Dona Ashcroft reached out to the community through a social media post the morning after the fire. With overwhelming response, she says there are 50 volunteers ready to assist. Dona would like everyone to know help is available for those needing a ride or help to pick up groceries. You can message Dona at donask@uniserve.com or www.facebook.com/dona.ashcroft.

Peacock’s Foodland in Tobermory can pick and pack groceries for delivery by volunteers. They can be reached at  (519) 596-2066.

If you wish to make your own grocery selections, the Golden Dawn bus is making a trip to and from Peacock’s Foodland for weekly shopping every Thursday, leaving Lion’s Head at 10 a.m. To book your seat, please call 519-793-3433.

Many of the local businesses continue to sell some basic grocery items: Garden in Thyme, UPI and Bear Tracks Restaurant in Ferndale; By The Bay in Pike Bay, The Shops at 84 Main and Cindy Lou’s in Lion’s Head; and The Lion’s Head Farmers’ Market (Saturdays until Thanksgiving weekend).

Hellyer’s Foodland was the primary drop off location for the Lion’s Head and District Food Bank. It is important for the local Food Bank to continue to receive donations. Stay tuned for an upcoming announcement regarding the interim drop-off location.