A fire early yesterday morning completely gutted Willo’s Grocery which was located at the back of the old Mackenzie Market at Linden.

Proprietor of the popular business, Lennox Wilson is now counting his losses. “I lost millions, can’t say exactly how much but it’s millions.” said Wilson who managed to maintain his composure as he looked on helplessly. Willo’s is known to be open the latest at Mackenzie. Wilson said that he left his business place sometime after 1 am and approximately 1 ½ hours after received word that his shop was on fire. “A taxi pull up and said come, come yuh store on fire.” He said that he immediately picked up his keys and rushed to the scene.

It took approximately ten minutes for Wilson to get to the scene. Upon his arrival the fire-fighters were struggling to gain entrance to the building since there was a raging fire inside.  The entire building was engulfed and heavy smoke and streaks of fire were seeping through. “It wasn’t easy for them to get in because my place was heavily protected, it had good grilling.” With the assistance of Wilson the shop was opened but by that time all was lost, the fire had already ravaged the interior.

The fire raging yesterday morning (Cathy Richards photo)

“I ain’t save nothing, nothing at all, but I will get up again, thank God it’s not my home and Linden got good people I know they will help me through this.” He added, “Don’t be afraid y’all gon see me back again, don’t be afraid.” assured Wilson. The man has been in business for more than thirty years but was placed at the back of the old Mackenzie Market some eight years ago when he was forced to relocate to allow for the construction of the vendors market on the wharf.

Wilson said that prior to closing his business that night, there was a voltage fluctuation. “The light was blinking a bit.” He said that as a precautionary measure he ensured that all the electrical appliances in the shop mainly freezers, were unplugged before closing.  “I am sure I didn’t leave anything on, I plugged out everything.” Persons speculated that the fire was electrical in origin.

He noted that on several occasions he would sleep at his shop after spending long hours repacking shelves. However he decided to go home because he wife and children had returned from a religious camp the very night.

Lennox Wilson speaking to the media at the scene of the fire

A security guard who was working at the vendors wharf, a short distance off said that he was standing at the front of the wharf when he smelt “like rice burning.” Upon investigation he noticed fire and thick streams of smoke coming form the roof of a shop at the back of the old Market. “Right away I called my boss and told him and he said they called the fire station.” He said that the fire tenders arrived approximately ten minutes after but were faced with a number of challenges. The security guard said that it was exactly 2:35 am when he noticed the fire.

“The first one had no water and I was trying to show them where they could put the hose to get water from deh river but they ain’t tek me on.” said the security guard. By the time they got themselves together the fire was raging. “They tried with the second fire reel but before you know it that was out of water.” It was not until the BOSAI fire truck arrived on the scene that the blaze was quelled.

Lennox Wilson (right) sitting amid the ruins of the grocery

Lockhart Thompson, an on-duty town constable was doing rounds when a “junkie” drew his attention to heavy smoke coming from the back of the market. He said that upon investigation he noticed that Willo’s Grocery was on fire and immediately rode to the Linden Fire Station and alerted them.

“I was over suh (on the Wismar end) on deh Dutchie Landing when I hear boodom, boodom, I want know if is gunshots. When I look over deh river I see de big fire on Willo place”, said Charles Orna, a captain of the Dutchie Boat Service. He said that he sent a woman to call the fire station, crossed the river and sent a taxi to collect the proprietor of the shop. According to him this was around 3 am.

The fire resulted in the entire Central Mackenzie being plunged into darkness. According to persons who were first on the scene, as the fire raged several electrical cables in the market circle were sparking. “It was dangerous to go in there because live wires were pitching every where.” said one man. Another said that it took some time for them to get officials of the Linden Electricity Company Incorporated to shut off the power in the area. The market circuit was isolated approximately 1 ½ hours after, allowing for the return of electricity to the remaining areas.
Wilson said that it was the values imparted to him by his grandmother with whom he grew up that was responsible for him maintaining his composure as he watched his life’s work go up in flames. “Not because you see me like this smiling and so it mean it ain’t hurting, it hurting deep.” He said that now that the business is gone he intends to treat it as a vacation period to recompose himself, work out strategies and prepare go at it again. “When I get home then the tears may come because this is a hard hit but for now I am holding it up.”

As word got around all the stallholders on the Mackenzie old market and arcade rushed to the scene. Some stood guard at their stalls while others tried to see what assistance they could give to Wilson. “Thank God for BOSAI again” said one businesswoman who felt that hadn’t it been for them the entire market would have been gutted. Bystanders said that they were prepared for the worst as the fire had begun to catch on to the roofing of the old market. “BOSAI barely arrived in time or it was all gone for channa and yall would have a really big story to write this morning”, one person said.

Several proprietors who operated businesses on the nearby wharf were also on the scene. Most of them said that they were told that it was the wharf that was on fire but their fears were allayed when they arrived on the scene. They stood guard at their shops.

Approximately fifty businesses are located on the old market area. They include butcher shops, groceries, clothes stalls, vegetable stalls, video shops, salons and a number of food stalls.
The business was heavily supported by Wilson’s family members and had an additional four employees who he said are now sadly out of a job but would be required to assist in the cleaning up process.

Several persons attested to the fact that Willo’s was one of the businesses in Linden which made a number of donations to charitable organizations and events in the Linden Community. They said that because of his support of the community they would be lobbying and pooling resources to ensure that the business is up and running again at the earliest possible time. Willo’s Grocery had no insurance coverage.

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