Many vendors lose everything in fire in Ohio’s Amish Country

SUGARCREEK, Ohio - The state fire marshal is trying to determine a cause for a fire that destroyed a large part of the Walnut Creek Amish Flea Market, a popular tourist destination in Ohio's Amish Country.

Firefighters were notified of the blaze at about 4 a.m. Wednesday and by the time they arrived, the building was already in flames.

Ashley Spears, the flea market's manager, arrived soon after she was notified several hours later and said she could still see flames climbing over the building's main entrance.

Fire doors prevent the flames from spreading to other parts of the market, but many of the more than 50 vendors lost everything they had.

Jeff Stroup and his family were among the first to have been vendors when the flea market first opened 11 years ago.

His business, Amish Country Gourmet, was among the first that visitors to the flea market would have seen after they entered the front doors.

"We were the first thing that you saw. We sampled everything so there was probably about 120 different things which you could try so that's the first thing everybody did was, 'Oh, look -- free samples,'" said Stroup.

On Wednesday, there was nothing left of his family's business where they were planning an inventory of their merchandise on Wednesday.

"Our inventory is zero," said Stroup.

"We were ready to make our big order because the busy season is coming up and, you know, the market closes mid-December so this is the big stretch going into mid-December," he added.

The market attracted tourists and repeat customers from around the country and Canada.

"There's entertainment people, we had outside vendors here and probably we are going to have more outside vendors here because the building's gone," said Stroup's father-in-law, Louis Merkle, who owns their business.

While Merkle said they would continue their business online, the physical store was covered by insurance.

Some other vendors who lost everything said they had no insurance.

"We have built this family over the last, you know, 11 years that we have been open to know that this was their livelihood;  this was their business, and these were our friends and our family. It breaks our hearts," said Spears.

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