Burned in Bronson

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Lee's Grocery destroyed by fire

By The Staff

Lee’s Grocery, a landmark business across from Bronson Motor Speedway on State Road 24 burned Monday morning turning a family’s income into smoke and ashes.

Mohammad Rashid, 24, was working alone at the store when he noticed smoke coming from a storage area on the back left side of the building. He said there was only one customer, a woman, in the store at the time.

“I asked the customer can you please leave, because there is smoke and she needs to leave,” said Rashid, who with two other brothers works in the store.

Rashid said he checked the storeroom and tried to extinguish the fire, but could not, so he dialed 911 and left the building.

The Bronson Volunteer Fire Rescue and Archer Fire Department battled the flames, but the building is a total loss. The investigation into the cause of the fire is being handled by the State Fire Marshal’s Office.

“There was smoke and sparks coming from the area,” Rashid said.

Rashid’s brother, Mamunur Rashid, the store’s manager, said they had just purchased the business from well-known businessman Vaughn Lee in January.

“Everything was running very good,” Mamunur Rashid said. “We wanted to make a bigger store.” The Rashid family owns two other stores in Fanning Springs and Bell.

Mamunur Rashid said the store would be rebuilt and reopened. “We have got to do this. It is a family business. This supports our family,” he said.

Lee, who was looking over the damage with members of the Rashid family, said the Rashid’s were doing a good job with the business and were accepted by the community.

The family had one remodeling project underway: replacing the fuel tanks. “We had new gas pumps and new tanks,” Mamunur Rashid said as he looked at the burned pumps sitting alongside the building. “We lost the new pumps.”

About the only things not lost in the blaze were newspaper vending machines in front of the store and three tanks — two holding 500 gallons and one for 1,500 gallons of diesel — off to the side.

There was electrical work being done at the back of the building where the fire started, but it was not being worked on at the time of the blaze.

Vaughn Lee was saddened to see the business burn and recounted its history.

It was constructed in 1977 by now-retired businessman C.W. Gilbert who used it for construction business offices. Later, it was a small engine repair shop.

“Oren White had a grocery store and gun shop in it,” Lee said. “He’s the one who put in the gas tanks.”

Later, Warren Dove owned the building and called the place MargeO’s. Lee said MargeO’s was a very well known business in the area. He said it was at the time that it became a convenience store.

“We bought it from TriCounty Bank in Trenton in June ’92,” Lee said.

“These guys working here are really great,” Lee said. “They were making inroads into the community.

“It was more than a business deal when we sold this, it was like family.”