SMACKOVER, Ark. (08/13/20) — Owners of the Sumac Mart in Smackover spent the day cleaning debris left from a grease fire that within minutes became uncontrollable and damaged the store.
Store owners and managers are still at a loss for words after the business caught fire around 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday.
Those passing by captured the moments that smoke filled the air and flames destroyed what the owners worked so hard on to achieve.
“It got to spreading. Once it got to going good it spread against the walls and on the ceiling and then it went on then,” Mayor Bobby Neal said.
Mayor Neal was one of the first to arrive on the scene. He said he was actually just headed to the store when the fire began.
“Between myself and Jason Langston we both put three fire extinguishers on it and had it knocked out,” Mayor Neal said. “It started back up. Smoke got bad and we ran out of stuff to work with.”
Smackover Fire Department arrived and spent about three and a half hours trying to contain the flames.
“It got to spreading. Once it got to going good it spread against the walls and on the ceiling,” he said.
The store was first built in the 1980’s. The current owners, Jason Langston and his mother, have owned it for about three years.
One thing it will always be known for is being the premiere stop for Smackover residents, truck drivers and others passing through along U.S. Highway 7.
It’s the only convenience store stop from Camden to El Dorado.
Many people like Mayor Neal were frequent customers as the store which served breakfast and other popular food items like fried chicken and fish.
With the constant traffic, the revenue it brought is part of what the small depended on.
“It helped our community sales tax wise bringing people to town,” he said. “It’s just been a tremendous help to our economy here in Smackover.”
Although the store itself was destroyed, the structure of what is currently being built was not damaged by the fire.
The store has been seeing some construction since April on a new Sumac Mart which will expand to being an actual truck stop.
The roof of the new building has already been built and so has much of the layout which includes a larger kitchen area and shower stalls for truck drivers.
There are approximately 12-15 workers that are displaced but managers are hoping to relocate them to three of their other sites. Two of those are located in East Camden while the other is located in Stephens.
Much of everything that was lost in the fire won’t be replaced. The owners wife, Cindy Langston, said they have construction insurance but lost building insurance due to how they were going about the current construction project.
Their general liability won’t cover it all, describing the incident as a “total loss” on her Facebook page.
“All content, equipment etc. not covered. Not one candy reimbursed,” she wrote.
With the financial impact from the fire, it will slow the process down but they do plan to continue with the work.
“They’ll be on with their building project if they get it cleaned up and get all of that other out of the way,” Mayor Neal said.
Owners say the future isn’t clear but one thing is for sure they do plan to rebuild. Right now, they are just simply asking for the community’s prayers.
Mayor Neal said a firefighter suffered a minor hand injury while trying to contain the blaze and received about six stiches but there were no other injuries reported.