NORDLAND — The future of Marrowstone Island’s beloved Nordland General Store was unclear Thursday following an early morning blaze that caused heavy damage throughout the building’s interior.
“The store doesn’t look good at all,” Tom Rose, who has owned the business with his wife, Sue, since 1994, said after surveying the damage Thursday afternoon.
“It’s worse than I thought.”
He said that the future of the nearly 100-year-old store was in doubt.
The Roses, who live just behind and above the store that sits across Flagler Road from Mystery Bay, awoke early Thursday morning to the sound of the building’s alarm and suspected someone had broken in, Tom Rose said.
Sue Rose called 911 at 2:28 a.m., according to East Jefferson Fire Rescue (EJFR).
Firefighters from EJFR, Naval Magazine Indian Island, Port Ludlow Fire Rescue and Quilcene Fire Rescue arrived to find smoke billowing from the building. Upon cutting a hole in the roof, firefighters discovered flames in the building’s attic and extinguished the blaze by 3:30 a.m., according to EJFR.
“When I arrived, there was massive amounts of smoke coming out of the building,” said EJFR spokeswoman Leah Speser.
“I had to leave because I couldn’t see and couldn’t breathe,” she added.
While the structure itself was saved, the interior suffered extensive damage from smoke and heat, said EJFR Assistant Chief Brian Tracer.
“The advantage of a good alarm system plus the prompt call to 911 allowed us to arrive in time to save this building,” Tracer said in a press release.
An EJFR investigation did not determine the exact cause of the fire but concluded it was accidental.
“They’re not really sure what caused it,” Speser said. “There was no sign of arson or malfeasance.”
The Roses couldn’t say when or if the store would reopen. Tom Rose said he did not expect any of the store’s contents would be salvageable.
“I get the feeling it might not be around anymore,” he said of the business, noting it had been a fixture in the community for many decades. “We were looking forward to the 100-year anniversary of the store.”
The Roses spent part of Thursday morning consoling fellow residents of the island as they stopped to find out what had happened.
“It’s like being at a funeral,” Tom Rose said.
“This is just devastating for the community,” Sue Rose added.
Corky Parker, who lived next to the Roses and the store for 10 years until 2018, said the store is the heart and soul of the island.
“It’s not just part of the community, it is the community on this island,” she said. “This is the only place that all the hermits of this island regularly cross paths.”
The building is also home to a U.S. Post Office that was damaged by smoke and will remain closed until further notice, said Carter Clark, manager of Post Office operations for the Puget Sound region.
In the meantime, customers who relied on any of its 215 Post Office boxes can pickup their mail between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at the post office in Port Hadlock at 93 Matheson St., Clark said.
Suzi Clinefelter, who has owned and operated Mystery Bay Sails and Canvas right next door for the past 12 years, said her business would be closed until further notice as she assesses smoke damage to her equipment and inventory.
Clinefelter echoed Parker in saying the general store has long served as the central hub of the community. Parker said the inside of the store was like a living shrine to the community, filled with trophies, photos, newspaper clippings, poems and other memorabilia.
“It was just covered with community relics,” Parker said, adding that islanders love the Roses and everything they do for the community, from organizing the annual Polar Bear Dip on the dock in front of the store to hosting Santa for an in-store Christmas Tree lighting each year.
“We all want to pitch in and do something to help them through this,” she said, “whatever that may be.”
Jefferson County senior reporter Nicholas Johnson can be reached by phone at 360-417-3509 or by email at [email protected].