An electrical fire in the attic is the suspected cause of a fire which destroyed the building housing a coffee shop in Grove.

At approximately 6:20 p.m., Monday, Feb. 12, emergency personnel were called to Cafe Yum II, at the corner of Ninth and Main, when customers and employees reported seeing smoke come from the attic.

Aaron Hyer, owner of Cafe Yum II, said several customers were at the register, at the rear of the facility when Sheldon Clark saw smoke coming from an upstairs window.

Hyer said after Clark yelled, smoke "came billowing down the stairs" from the second story.

While Clark made sure no one was in the front rooms, Hyer and his wife Courtney, were able to get their customers and staff out of the building using side and rear exits.

Grove Fire Chief Mike Reed said more than 51 firefighters from the Grove, Hickory Grove, Cowskin, Butler, Zena and Monkey Island Fire Department, responded to the incident.

Other emergency personnel responding included members of the Delaware County Emergency Management, Grove Police Department and Grove Emergency Medical Services.

Shortly before 7 p.m., Reed said firefighters thought the initial fire was extinguished. Several went into into the structure looking for hot spots still needing to be put out. 

They were driven out of the building when a layer of heavy smoke built up in the attic.

Reed said several areas of the structure's attic were not accessible to the fire personnel for a variety of reasons, including thick wooden walls created during a renovation process. 

He said those spaces, along with a large fuel load of cardboard, paper and styrofoam goods, may have caused the fire to rekindle.

He said another factor in why the fire re-started, and then burned for several hours, is that there were several layers of roofing materials on the structure.

Reed said firefighters pumped a "large volume" of water, in excess of thousands of gallons, on the structure for at least solid hours. Other water was used to keep the fire from spreading to nearby Annie's Garden Gate.

Firemen remained on the scene well into the evening, making sure the fire was extinguished. 

Reed said two fire fighters were hurt during the incident: one sustained a minor sprain, the other, non-life threatening injuries which required treatment at INTEGRIS Grove Hospital.

Reed said this is the largest structure fire, within the corporate city limits of Grove, since Jiffy Market caught on fire in 2013 due to a fire in a mechanical closet.

Looking ahead

As the smoke cleared, Hyer said he and his wife were unsure of their next steps. The couple leased the structure from owner Teresa Landreth in late 2017, opening Cafe Yum II in December.

The couple offered beverages, a light menu of soups, sandwiches and salads, as well as an assortment of pastries at the business seven days a week.

Hyer said he was glad everyone got out of the structure, and only one firefighter was injured enough to seek medical treatment.

Since Tuesday, the Hyers and Landreth have met with their respective insurance adjusters, and begun to assess what happened. 

While a final decision has not been made by either insurance company, he fears that he is under insured. He estimates he lost more than $100,000 in equipment, including two espresso machines and the recently installed soft serve yogurt machines. 

He fears other appliances, including the refrigerators, sustained water or smoke damage.

Hyer said the community's support, both verbal and postings on social media, have encouraged the couple to consider reopening the business.

"It's surreal," Hyer said. "I didn't feel like we had that much impact on the community in the short time we were open, as much as we did."

He said the couple continue to explore their options for the future, while they wait for the various insurance companies to make decisions about the building and its contents.

"It's going to be hard to replicate that building and its environment," Hyer said. "We sank all of my retirement into it. We were committed to this, to make it work - and it was working."

Hyer said the various age groups using the cafe as a meeting place, was proof it met a multi-generational need in Grove.

"We didn't want a normal restaurant, where [customers] were in and out," Hyer said. "We wanted it to feel like home. We wanted a place where people could just sit and visit.

"It was all about the environment, making it comfortable and feel like home."

More about the building  

Landreth purchased the building at the end of 2011. It once served as the home and law office for E.B. and Edith Hunt, the great-grandparents of former Grove resident Jane Ann Lock Nichols. 

Landreth opened the original Cafe Yum in early 2012, and operated it for at least two years before medical issues caused her to close the facility.

Under her ownership, the building underwent a significant renovation, which included a variety of themed rooms and painted murals.

One room in the front of the building contained a painted "tree of life," while a second was lined with a variety of old fashioned cookie jars.

While she resisted leasing out the structure to others, Courtney Hyer once worked for Landreth, and convinced her to let the couple open up Cafe Yum II.

"They added so much," Landreth said of the Hyers. "They put so much into the business."