SOUTHINGTON — Crews have finished leveling the Tops Market site in preparation for a rebuild that owners hope is around the corner.
John Salerno and Betsy Tooker’s iconic market was destroyed in a fire last month. They’re anticipating a gap between the cost of building a new store and what their insurance company will pay out, but don’t yet know the exact shortfall.
Janalynne Guis, Salerno’s daughter, said they’re finalizing architectural drawings and will send them out to bid in the next few weeks. Bids will give them the firm numbers they need to proceed.
“We are on track to rebuild. Of course it will ultimately depend if we can do it financially,” Guis said. “We know there’s going to be shortfall. We’re looking into financing options to bridge that gap. Certainly we don’t want to start a project we can’t finish.”
Salerno said the estimates, and the gap between those estimates and the insurance payout, can get him down.
“I think it’s going to be close,” he said. “I know how badly I’ve wanted this and I know the town wants it.”
There’s a lot of emotion around rebuilding, according to Salerno.
“Sometimes emotion will win out over logic,” he said.
With the chance to build from scratch, Guis said the owners are considering improvements to the store, such as an expanded produce section and updated interior. Plans now show an exterior that’s largely the same as before and roughly the same amount of floor space.
“This will certainly allow us to get a more updated, fresher look,” Guis said. “It’s going to be a lot of what Tops was before, offering sushi, our full service deli, a much larger produce section — what we were and more.”
Donations from community members toward the rebuild have totaled more than $15,000. Guis said she was grateful for the support and said that sum would be returned to the community through donations.
“We just feel so blessed and are amazed by the support and the checks that are still coming into the rebuild fund,” she said.
The demolition of the old building was a morale boost to the market owners.
“It just made everyone really depressed to see that building,” Guis said. “While there doesn’t look like progress, trust me, behind the scenes, there’s hours of work going into this.”