Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Grocery lost to fire

Zup’s to rebuild and pay employees during closure

Marcus White
Posted 11/14/18

COOK— Zup’s will rebuild after a fire destroyed the store here Monday night.

“We’ll be back and better than we were in order to take care of our community,” owner Matt Zupancich said …

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Grocery lost to fire

Zup’s to rebuild and pay employees during closure

Posted

COOK— Zup’s will rebuild after a fire destroyed the store here Monday night.

“We’ll be back and better than we were in order to take care of our community,” owner Matt Zupancich said Wednesday.

All of the location’s employees will continue to receive regular paychecks before an expected re-opening next summer.

Zupancich said he has also been in touch with community members who have expressed interest in arranging a grocery delivery service or rideshares to other area Zup’s stores. Zupancich said the plans were still in the early stages, but he was open to working with the community as plans began to solidify.

Until then, Cook residents will have to drive to either Zup’s in Tower or other grocery stores in Orr or Virginia.

Monday night blaze

Fire crews and law enforcement were called to the store on Hwy. 53 shortly before 9 p.m. on Monday night after a report of smoke and flames emerging from the rear of the building.

Responding sheriff’S deputies immediately called for mutual aid from surrounding fire departments including Bearville, Embarrass, Greenwood and Virginia.

“It’s devastating,” Cook resident Becky Tripp said. “I do all of my grocery shopping here. It will be a terrible inconvenience and devastating loss because the town depends on it.”

She added that she was concerned for her daughter as well, who worked at the store and would now be temporarily out of a job.

Tripp was one of dozens of spectators who sat out in temperatures approaching zero degrees as the store burned. A sheriff’s deputy who did not wish to be identified at the scene said at one point at least 42 cars lined the highway and adjoining businesses to try and get a glimpse of the blaze.

He said people had to be pushed back after some wandered too close to the fire to catch a better look.

Shortly after 10 p.m., all of the businesses on the west side of the highway were closed and emergency officials had cordoned off their parking lots. The neighboring McDonald’s was turned into a temporary shelter for fire crews to warm up.

Daylight on Tuesday morning revealed that much of the rear of the store was gone and damage looked to extend well throughout the building.

A press statement released by St. Louis County at 4 a.m. on Tuesday said there were still hot spots in the building that fire crews were still trying to cool. Steam and smoke could still be seen at the rear of the store as of mid-morning on Tuesday.

“Our community is suffering the loss of an anchor business. Our hearts are with Matt Zupancich and the Zupancich family, the employees of the store, and our residents who shop there daily.

“We would like to thank all the members of the Cook Fire Department and all other responding services,” Cook Mayor Harold Johnston said in a statement Tuesday afternoon. “Our appreciation also to other local businesses who stepped up to assist in any way they could. We need to focus on the immediate needs of displaced workers, shoppers, and the store owners. Cook is a close-knit community. We will all come together to get through this loss.”

Curious onlookers and employees of the store could be seen in the parking lot and Zupancich greeted them.

The store was empty at the time of the blaze and no injuries were reported as a result of the fire.

The incident is being investigated by the State Fire Marshal and neither investigators nor Zup’s owners have commented on a potential cause of the blaze since the matter is still under investigation.

The fire is the second to hit a Zup’s grocery in the past decade. The chain’s store in Babbitt burned in 2011. The latest fire is also one of a series of major commercial blazes to strike Cook in recent decades, including the Cook Dollar Store, the Vermilion Motel, Clark’s IGA, Amundson apartment building, the Country Supper Club, and Northern Farmer’s Co-op.

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snowshoe2

Wow,what a nice gesture by Zups to keep regular paychecks coming.

Thursday, November 15