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Owners of Joppa hardware store destroyed in 2013 submit plans to rebuild

Owners of Anderson Hardware in Joppa plan to rebuild their business that was destoryed by fire in June 2013.
Owners of Anderson Hardware in Joppa plan to rebuild their business that was destoryed by fire in June 2013. (MATT BUTTON | AEGIS FILE PHOTO, Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Owners of the iconic Anderson Hardware of Joppa, whose main building was destroyed in a June 2013 fire, have begun to move ahead with obtaining county approvals they need to rebuild the store.

What was left of the building was demolished following the fire, which investigators said caused an estimated $1 million in damage to the building and its contents.

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A two-story, 18,000-square-foot building is planned on the same site in the 900 block of Pulaski Highway (Route 40) just west of Route 152, according to site plans reviewed by the Harford County Development Advisory Committee on Oct. 15.

Committee members had few comments on the site plan, which has been developed by Bay State Land Services of Forest Hill, although it was noted the new facility will be built to contemporary safety standards.

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"Everything will be up to standards now," committee Chairman Moe Davenport said.

The Deems family has operated the business since 1969. Owner Frank Albert Deems Jr. and his son, Dwight, the store manager, attended the session, as did Gloria Moon and Betty Byrne, members of the Joppa/Joppatowne Community Council, who noted the community misses the store.

Dwight Deems said the original building was constructed in 1937, with additions built during the 1950s.

More than 80 firefighters, medics and other emergency workers from Baltimore and Harford counties, including members of Harford County's HAZMAT team, responded to the three-alarm fire, which was reported around 6:30 p.m. on June 18, 2013, after the store had closed for the day. In all, eight fire companies responded to what officials said was the equivalent of a three-alarm fire.

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The hazardous materials team was dispatched to the fire because of the contents of the store potentially being hazardous, fire officials said at the time. The fire took some four hours to bring under control. Two firefighters with the Aberdeen Proving Ground Fire Department were injured.

A team of deputy state fire marshals, along with agents from the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, determined the most probable cause of the fire was "an electrical fault or failure of enclosed wiring," according to a statement released by the Office of the State Fire Marshal two weeks after the fire.

Bill Snyder, who represents the county's volunteer fire and EMS service on the development advisory committee, recommended installing Knox key boxes at the facility.

The Knox boxes are secure boxes where a business owner can store keys to the building, which firefighters can open and get keys so they do not have to smash their way into a building that has been closed, explained Snyder, a member of the Bel Air Volunteer Fire Company, who said later he was among those who fought the fire.

Robin Wales, who represents the county's Department of Emergency Services, said the address numbers must be 10 to 12 inches high, large enough to be seen by first responders from Route 40, which is a standard requirement, and outbuildings on the property must be properly labeled, also for emergency responders.

Dwight Deems said he and his father are just waiting for permits to be approved before they begin rebuilding.

"It's your family business," he said. "I grew up in that store; if I wasn't in school I was at work with my father."

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