UPDATED AT 5:06 p.m. on 05/25/2020

Fire destroyed a landmark business in Hawkesbury on Saturday afternoon.

Marché Lacroix, a popular grocery store and meat market at the corner of James and Regent Streets, had been a Hawkesbury landmark for 85 years.

According to owner Stéphane Jeaurond, he left the shop at approximately 2:30 p.m. for home and received a call from one of his employees who thought the house next to the store was on fire.  Jeaurond told the employee to lock the front door of the store and get all employees and customers outside at the back of the building.  There were six employees and an unspecified number of customers inside the store.  Everyone exited the store safely.

But Jeaurond  arrived shortly to find that his store was on fire.

The gusty east wind on Saturday afternoon caused the heavy, thick smoke to make breathing and visibility difficult in part of Hawkesbury.  Nearby homes were evacuated. The only damage to the house next to Marché Lacroix was a cracked window and some burned siding.

The cause of the fire was not suspicious or of a criminal nature.  The OPP interviewed Marché Lacroix employees and other witnesses, their answers were used to determine that the fire was not started intentionally and originated in the basement of the building.

Hawkesbury Fire Chief Daniel Gascon said that he asked for the remainder of the building to be demolished by excavating equipment before the fire was out because the structure was unsafe, and the fire needed to be extinguished more quickly.

Gascon said that 20 Hawkesbury firefighters were present, and the L’Orignal fire department also assisted.

Jeaurond spent all of Sunday at the site surveying the damage with the Hawkesbury Fire Department, Ontario Provincial Police, and Town of Hawkesbury employees.

“It’s been a tough day,” he said on Sunday evening.

Jeaurond said the fire likely started in the basement of the building.

“It’s going to be tough; it’s going to be long and stressful,” said Jeaurond, about the process ahead.

He is still in discussions with the insurance company and is not yet prepared to speculate on if Marché Lacroix will rebuild.  The value of the damage is estimated at $1.5 million.

“I really appreciate the support I have from everybody,” Jeaurond said, referring to the many phone calls and emails he has received since the fire, including from other local business owners.

“A big thank you to the community for everything,” Jeaurond added.  He complimented the fire department and police for their fast arrival at the scene.

Jeaurond purchased Marché Lacroix in 2000.  The Lacroix family opened the store in 1935 and Jeaurond kept the name due to its good reputation in the community.  Most recently, Marché Lacroix had been focusing on home delivery in order to serve customers during the COVID-19 emergency.

The store, which in addition to selling groceries, produce and meat, sold convenient, single-portions of homemade dinners and single-portion desserts, also provided the food for Meals on Wheels in Vankleek Hill.  A Catered Affair will be the new provider of the meals.

The wind spread the heavy, thick smoke from the fire at Marché Lacroix around the downtown area of Hawkesbury. This is James Street, looking up the hill from Main Street, toward Marché Lacroix. Photo: James Morgan.