SOUTHINGTON — Estimates for rebuilding Tops Market are $500,000 higher than an anticipated insurance payout, but owner John Salerno still hopes to bring down the building costs and reopen.
He’s working with architects and engineers to design a new building for the Meriden-Waterbury Turnpike grocery store that was destroyed in a fire earlier this month.
“We’re probably shy a good half a million dollars,” Salerno said Friday. “We’re working on bringing that number down.”
Since the fire, Salerno has started driving for Uber.
“It originally started as a way to relieve a little pressure,” he said. “I’m trying to save as much money as I can from the business to put as much as I can into the rebuild.”
Salerno’s employees have taken other jobs or are relying on unemployment. Nearby businesses have offered jobs to Tops employees, an offer Salerno hopes they’ll consider.
Salerno’s family started an online fundraiser to help reopen the store. Nearly $3,000 has been donated toward the $50,000 goal.
Janalynne Gius, Salerno’s daughter, said they set up the fund to make sure that people looking to donate didn’t give money to unauthorized fundraisers. She didn’t plan to promote the fundraiser and said that any amount donated will eventually be given back to the community through charities.
“After several mentions of potential donation sites being established without our knowledge, we have decided to set up an official site,” she wrote on the fundraiser site. “Since we have our community to thank for our success in business, we have decided that funds contributed to helping us rebuild, will eventually be donated back to the Southington Community.”
On Friday, Gius said a total of $3,500 has been raised through the site and direct donations.
“People have been so generous,” she said.
The fundraiser can be found at www.gofundme.com/tops-marketplace-community-rebuild-fund.
While the insurance company had offered Salerno a lump sum, it won’t cover the rebuild and he and co-owner Betsy Tooker want to reopen.
The first step would be to clear the rubble of the ruined building. Some asbestos was found in a portion of the building and Salerno said that might increase the price for clearing the property.
Guis said the effort to rebuild is happening as quickly as possible.
“We do intend to rebuild,” she said. “We are working as hard and as fast as we can toward the rebuild.”