DE SOTO, Kan. -- Shoppers in De Soto will have to find another store to buy their meat from for a while, as Steve's Meat Market recovers from an overnight fire that gutted half of the store.
The owner told FOX 4’s Sean McDowell that it's not good when your phone rings at 2 a.m., which is what alerted Steve “Mitch” Prudden to the blaze. Steve's Meat Market is a local landmark and a family-run business that's operated for almost 50 years, and customers and store operators want to see the doors open again as soon as possible.
Three generations of Prudden's family have called the meat market their pride and joy. That fateful phone call alerted him to his worst fear; that his store was on fire.
“I honestly thought it was a false alarm because we were doing a little remodeling. Come to find out it was real. Flames were shooting on top of the building and all that kind of stuff,” Prudden said.
Steve's Meat Market has been in business since 1969. One customer FOX 4 spoke with called it a cornerstone of the community. When Prudden arrived at his store, he found part of the roof glowing with flames. He said firefighters were concentrating on a compressor room where two large compressors powered all the refrigeration units for the store.
“There's a lot of electrical damage, as far as the main service coming into the plant is gone. The compressor, the refrigeration part of the front end is gone. It's just disintegrated,” he explained. “I would venture we're going to lose all of the product that was exposed to the smoke. That's a given.”
No one was injured in the fire, but Prudden doesn't expect the store to be open for a few weeks. Mark Billquist, operations chief of the Northwest Consolidated Fire District, said his inspectors can't determine what caused the blaze.
Customers arriving to shop on Wednesday were stunned, including Mary Williams and Lynn Sopko, who say the local economy depends on keeping Steve's Meat Market open.
“We've been going here for years. They know you by name. We'd come in and they'd say, ‘Hi Lynn, hi Mary. How are you doing?’ It's a really nice place,” Sopko said.
“Hopefully, with hard work, we'll be up and running as soon as we can,” Prudden said.
Mitch Prudden explained that his business contains a retail storefront as well as a USDA inspection station. He says the federal station should be open again by next week, and he hopes to get the retail shop running shortly thereafter.