Residents of New Denver were left reeling after a fire in the early morning hours of Feb. 20 destroyed the interior of the Village Hearth Restaurant.
The acrid smell of smoke was still in the air days after the fire.
The kitchen is completely destroyed, and the front section of the building, including the restaurant and upstairs apartment are heavily damaged by smoke.
Building owner Rory Pownall received the call about the fire from her husband at 2:15 in the morning.
“I just started shaking, I couldn’t believe it,” she said. “He tried to warn me that it was bad. He said the kitchen was gutted, and that’s my kitchen.”
When Pownall and her husband first inherited the building from her mother in 2007 the building was originally an office space.
It took a year and a half to turn the building into a restaurant, Rory’s on Main, which ran for six years.
The Healthy Community Society of the North Slocan Valley, a not-for-profit society, took over the restaurant’s lease, with the Village Hearth opening in October 2016 with the goal of purchasing from locally grown farmers. Everything from the restaurant, from the vegetables to the meat, was grown locally.
Losing the restaurant is a big blow to these farmers and growers.
“Everyone is fighting to get the cheapest of everything, especially in the food industry,” said Pownall. “You want affordable pricing for your food so you can sell for cheaper so you can draw more people in. What the Village Hearth was doing was purchasing quality locally grown and raised foods that cost more.”
Heather Fox, manager of the Village Hearth was stunned when she first heard the news.
“It was a total shock, and heartbreaking to realize that the dream of so many people and so much volunteer effort that went in to making that happen has just gone up in smoke,” she said.
Though she is still coming to terms with what happened, Pownall has decided not to rebuild the kitchen.
The fire started in the pantry, but the cause has yet to be determined. Fire officials have said it wasn’t electrical or intentional.