Local News

Fire Destroys One of Sampson County's Oldest Businesses

Posted January 25, 2008 7:07 a.m. EST
Updated January 25, 2008 9:28 p.m. EST

— Salemburg residents mourned after a Friday morning fire destroyed a nearly 100-year-old historic hardware store that was a center of community life.

A truck driver spotted a fire at Royal Trustworthy Hardware, 104 West College St., around 3:30 a.m. Crews from 12 fire departments rushed to scene, but nothing could be salvaged, and the building was deemed a total loss.

Officials believe a space heater in a back office might have started the fire.

Community members mourned the loss of the store, which had been a center of Salemburg life since C.S. Royal opened its doors in the late 1800s. C.S. Royal moved the store into a new building in 1912, where it stood until Friday morning.

"It's like a part of my childhood gone down the drain," said Vanessa Webber, who owns a restaurant down the block. "If I needed anything, I'd just walk down here and get it. It was so convenient."

Although owner Jim McGuirt took over the store from the Royal family, he said he, too, feels as if he has lost a relation.

"It's like losing a member of the family. It's really sad," McGuirt said.

C.A. Royal remembered working in the store that was passed down among three generations of his family. The Salemburg native said he was glad he at least has memories of the store.

"It meant a lot," C.A. Royal said. "I started working there when I was 10 years old."

When it first opened, Royal Trustworthy Hardware served the community like a general store or a modern department store. It sold school supplies, food and a full line of shoes for children, women and men. Rolling ladders lined the walls for clerks to get items from the top shelves.

The store still drew customers from as far away as Raleigh, McGuirt said. Beachgoers from the capital would go out of their way to stop at the store for unique finds.

A 2006 book, Vanishing Americana: A North Carolina Portrait, features pictures of Royal Trustworthy Hardware taken by Statesville photographer Mike Lassiter. The book was published by Lormir Press.

McGuirt said the store was insured and he would like to rebuild, especially since the store meant so much to the community. Before the fire, he had planned to retire and run the store full-time.

"It's a helpless feeling, standing there watching part of your life burn to the ground," McGuirt said.