Kloter Farms, a landmark business in Ellington, was ravaged by fire early Wednesday morning.
Just before 7 a.m. there was an explosion on the lower level of the country store that caused flames to engulf most of the business, according to Todd Root, Director of Marketing for .
Root said that there was one employee in the building on West Road at the time and that she was able to evacuate immediately and was unharmed.
Root said that he didn’t know what caused the explosion; the employee said she heard a bang before the fire started. He said that the fire is believed to have started on the lower level of the store and spread upward through the upper level of the store. The fire marshal is investigating.
In terms of the loss, the monetary estimates are quite extensive.
“Millions,” Root said. “The cost of the building and the furnishings inside, I would say the loss is in the millions.”
Kloter Farms is a family owned business that has been around since 1980. The Ellington store came a few years after, around 1987, and is one of the most well known businesses in town.
There are two divisions of the business: the country store, a fine furnishings business that uses both levels of the store to showcase the furniture and home décor, and the outdoor business, which sells garden sheds, outdoor structures, and gazebos.
Root said that most of the business during the summer months is focused on the outdoor retail, but that there is still a strong business in the country store.
“Our outdoor business is unaffected by the fire, but our country store right now as you can imagine is closed,” Root said. “We are assessing the implications of the fire as it stands right now and we’ll know more by the end of the day what our plans will be. Suffice it to say, that portion of our business is sort of on hold for the time being. It is our intention to rebuild this store. It’s our furniture and we can rebuild that. We’re really confident that we’ll be fine.”
He continued, “This obviously is devastating. But you know what? We’re really handling it well. We’re fully insured so we’re confident that we will not have a problem in rebuilding and restoring this side of the business to bring it back to what it has been."
"We’ve had a lot of support from folks, particularly neighbors... We’ve had a lot of gestures of support and offers of help from folks,” he said.
“It’s definitely a widely recognized business in Ellington because of its location, because of the advertising, because of the quality of the merchandise they sell – there’s a lot going on over there that makes them highly recognizable,” Ellington First Selectman Maurice Blanchette said.
“They will stay in business. They are strong, they’re in for the long haul, and they will rebuild. Those are (owner) Peter Welti’s words,” Blanchette said.
Employee Chet Luginbuhl has been with the company for 24 years and works on the outdoor side of the business. He lives in town and saw the smoke on his way to work.
“I came to work and down over the hill and I just saw smoke going up in the air and it either had to be the gas station or the place I work,” he said. “Devastation. What can I say? It’s tough. I was sick to my stomach.”
Luginbuhl said he was very thankful that the store was not open yet and that the fire didn’t occur at noontime when the store would have been full.
Luginbuhl praised the efforts of the fire departments that responded.
“The fire companies were fantastic,” he said. “The two big aerial trucks, without them, who knows what would have happened. The two big trucks were amazing. It could have been much worse, definitely.”
In addition to the , , Vernon, , , Broad Brook and others responded to help out and to cover the Ellington station while everyone was out on the scene.
“I also want to extend my thank yous to the Ellington Fire Department, the Vernon Fire Department, and all the volunteers who have come out and helped us in this very difficult time,” Root said.
At noon, firefighters were still on the scene, soaking the building and conducting an investigation. Curious citizens were also on hand to watch the action, some of them bringing out their lawn chairs.