By C. N. Staff Writer
During the first week of June Frager’s Hardware, a beloved Capitol Hill hardware store, burned down. Firefighters responded to the store that set off a four-alarm system and sent the store in a blaze that could be seen from blocks away.
The store located at 1115 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, is one of the oldest hardware stores in the District and what many residents and community members say is a store that’s unmatchable to any of the other big box retail hardware stores. Janice Harris, a southeast resident for over 30 years said she often visited the store because of their rare inventory. “That store had so much stuff. A lot of it you can’t even find in Home Depot or Lowes.”
Customers, employees and neighbors of the 93-year old establishment have felt Harris’ sentiment. Remnants of the store show blown out windows and shattered glass along the sidewalk. 11th street southeast, which was one of the entrances to the store, was blocked off in the following week of the fire due to the nature of the damage.
What started the fire of the three-building complex is still unknown, but fire investigators are working hard to figure out its cause. The fire began about 6:30p.m. and lasted into the night, but was declared under control about 11p.m. Customers inside the store at the start of the fire said they thought it was coming from a small fuse and quickly rushed out, but only to watch it burn vigorously.
The store, which has about 60 employees, has vowed to rebuild and has already opened a pop-up store at the nearby Eastern Market selling garden products and other salvaged goods. General Manager, Nick Kaplanis, who has worked at Frager’s for 17 years, said [Frager’s] is “not going down on my watch.”
Mayor Gray went to the scene and said the city would help the store rebuild. “I know people who swear by Frager’s,” the mayor said. The four-alarm system sent over 200 firefighters out to the scene to try to diffuse the blaze over all three of the building’s complex, paint, hardware and equipment rental.
Crowds packed the street across from the building in disbelief, but many remained optimistic about the stores future. “They will rebuild,” said Lisa Fennell, a northeast resident who was in the area at the time of the fire.
Deputy Fire Chief John Donnelly said the blaze started at about 6:30p.m. and “very quickly the fire overwhelmed the initial response,” due to the many flammable things sold at the store.