Fire ignited by lightning destroys landmark Edgewood hardware store


Fire caused by lightning Monday night destroyed an Edgewood landmark, a family-operated Ace Hardware store in the 400 block of Edgewood Road, fire authorities said yesterday.

Damage to the store and its contents in a one-story concrete block building was estimated at $500,000, said W. Faron Taylor, a deputy state fire marshal.

The lightning "came in on the power line, blew out a junction box in the center of the store and just wiped out everything" from that point forward, he said.

Leroy M. Love, 66, of Bel Air, who owns the store with his wife, Shirley, said he had left the office in the center of the store and locked up about 15 minutes before the lightning struck. Neighbor Rhonda Wagner said she saw the lightning strike from her house across the street. The front windows of the store were blown out and a cloud of thick black smoke poured from the building, she said.

Ms. Wagner said the store will be missed if it does not reopen. "Mr. Love was always so helpful," she said.

Mr. Love said he opened a small shop on the site as Love's TV and Radio Service 41 years ago, after he returned from the Korean War.

About 1960, he expanded and opened a Western Auto franchise there.

The store was converted to an Ace Hardware seven years ago, when the Loves opened a Western Auto store on Pulaski Highway in Edgewood.

Mr. Love kept the records for both businesses at the old store while his wife and son, Steven, operated the newer facility.

He said he would speak with insurance officials before deciding whether he will attempt to rebuild the hardware store.

"I'm 66, so maybe it's time to cut back some," he said. "But all my friends are back there."

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