‘I don’t know what I’m going to do.’ Fire destroys 5 businesses at Modesto strip mall

Update: A woman was arrested on suspicion of starting the fire. Click here to read more.

Original story:

A three-alarm fire destroyed five businesses early Saturday morning at the Neighborhood Shopping Center on Carver Road in central Modesto, a blaze that took firefighters about two hours to get under control.

Business owners returned Saturday morning to see the charred remains for themselves.

The blaze gutted Jay’s Trophy Shop, Clawz nail salon, Shen’s Acupuncture, King Cuts barbershop and the Asian Market at the shopping center at Carver Road and Roseburg Avenue

Chuck Wells said his father, Jay, started the trophy business out of his garage in 1980. The business grew and moved into the storefront at the shopping center in 1985. Wells has owned and operated the business since his father died.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do,” Wells said while looking at what was left of his business. “It looks like a total loss.”

Firefighters responded to the fire about 1 a.m. Saturday. The first firefighters who arrived spotted smoke and flames coming from the rear of the building, said Battalion Chief Andrew Hunter of the Modesto Fire Department.

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Chuck Wells, owner of Jay’s Trophy Shop, on Saturday June 8, 2019, walks near the business his father started in 1980. A fire destroyed the business at the shopping center in the 1100 block of Carver Road in Modesto, California. Rosalio Ahumada rahumada@modbee.com

Hunter said the firefighters launched an offensive attack to try to put out the blaze. Firefighters from the Ceres Fire Department and Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Protection also were called to help corral the flames.

Firefighters had the blaze under control about 3:14 a.m., Hunter said. Crews remained at the scene until about 11 a.m. Saturday.

Wells said he had about $75,000 worth of engraving machines that were ruined by the fire. He didn’t know yet the cost of the other destroyed merchandise and equipment inside the trophy shop.

He said the location on Carver Road has been a great spot for his trophy shop for the past 34 years; a lot of longtime customers. He said the other nearby businesses and employees were friendly.

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The sign for the Asian Market sits on a pile of wreckage after a fire destroyed the business Saturday June 8, 2019, at the shopping center in the 1100 block of Carver Road in Modesto, California. Rosalio Ahumada rahumada@modbee.com

As Wells stood several feet from his scorched trophy shop, he thought about the Ceres Little League Baseball players who won’t be receiving their trophies next week as planned. He said there were even some plaques for the Modesto Fire Department that were destroyed inside the business.

“We’ve been around here for a long time,” Wells said while considering whether his business can find a home elsewhere. “There’s a hope. The right situation has to happen.”

Investigators also were at the scene Saturday morning. The origin and cause of the fire had not been determined, said Lt. Dave Hutchinson, Stanislaus Regional Fire Investigation Unit commander.

He said Modesto police detectives were called to canvas the neighborhood and speak to any witnesses who might have information about the fire.

Hutchinson and other fire investigators went into the burned structures to try to recover any security camera video that could help them in their investigation. It’s standard procedure.

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Lt. Dave Hutchinson and other members of the Stanislaus Regional Fire Investigation Unit on Saturday June 8, 2019, search the burned remains of the Asian Market after a fire destroyed it and four other businesses at the shopping center on Carver Road in Modesto, California. Rosalio Ahumada rahumada@modbee.com

Hutchinson said it appeared that the Dollar General store only sustained smoke and water damage from the fire.

Trong Vuong’s family has run and operated the Asian Market at the Carver Road shopping center for more than 35 years. His parents ran the place, before they retired four years ago and he took over the owner duties.

“I just started advertising on Google; we were getting new customers,” Vuong said. “It was going well.”

The Asian Market also had fire insurance. But Vuong said he doesn’t know what his next step will be. He wonders how the business that started off small and had expanded will have to start all over again.

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Trong Vuong speaks to a fire investigator on Saturday June 8, 2019. A fire destroyed his Asian Market, a business his family has owned and operated for more than 35 years at the shopping center in the 1100 block of Carver Road in Modesto, California. Rosalio Ahumada rahumada@modbee.com

The market was known for its large variety of Asian foods, Vuong said, and the business had mostly longtime customers. But he feels there’s a strong need for his market in Modesto, so he wants to reopen at another location.

“We got an Asian community here, and a lot of people are into Oriental foods,” Vuong said. “And it’s healthy, too. We had a lot of vegan and vegetarian foods.”

Rosalio Ahumada writes news stories about criminal court cases in Stanislaus County for The Modesto Bee, issues related to immigration and immigrant communities and breaking news related to crime and public safety. From time to time, he covers the Modesto City Council meetings. He has worked as a news reporter in the Northern San Joaquin Valley since 2004.