An acrid pall hung in the air surrounding the busy corner of Race and Gingerbread Lanes in East Hampton yesterday morning, a bitter remnant of the fire that gutted the Hampton Market Place food shop the night before.
The fire sent five firefighters to the hospital. They were released after being treated for minor injuries and smoke inhalation.
East Hampton Fire Chief Ray Harden said in a release that about 100 fire volunteers in all responded and that the blaze was quickly brought under control. Mutual-aid calls went to the Amagansett, Sag Harbor, and Springs Fire Departments.
The cause of the fire, which appeared to have started in the store’s kitchen, was being investigated by the East Hampton Village fire marshal, Ken Collum.
Yesterday morning the parking lot at the market was closed off with yellow caution tape. Scorch marks were visible along the building’s metal siding, and a large sign in the front window appeared to have been partially burned. Other windows in the one-story structure were boarded up with plywood.
Light poured through a jagged hole above the food counter where firefighters had chopped through the roof. The driver of a produce delivery truck was on his cellphone in the usually crowded parking lot informing his boss that his order was canceled.
The popular grocery with its colorful flower display, sushi stand, and hot-lunch takeout counter — all reduced to ash or blackened by soot — employed more than a dozen people, a number of them related.
“The financial impact will be staggering,” said one of the store managers, who said she had helped oversee the business for the past six or seven years from the time George and Nina Bowden transformed it. It was previously known as Schmidt’s, and before that the G&T Dairy.
Hampton Market Place combined fresh fruit and vegetables with locally produced items such as candy, cookies, and specialty foods. The market’s owner, Ronen O’Dwyer of East Hampton, could not be reached for comment.
Mr. Collum said that he was “still digging through it. I have a couple of scenarios, but it’s still under investigation.”