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Roanoke market ‘will come back stronger’ after snow damage

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Roanoke Grocery Market roof collapse

A roof cave-in was reported at the Roanoke Grocery Market building in the 3800 block of Melrose Ave Northwest just before noon Monday, according to Roanoke Fire-EMS. No injuries were reported.

The abrupt arrival of winter weather turned into an unwelcome snow day for a popular Mediterranean market when its roof caved in Monday under the weight of the rain, slush and snow that had been falling for hours.

Elsewhere in the Roanoke region, despite being relatively brief and shallow, the snow also had a heavy impact on travel and on Appalachian Power customers.

At the Roanoke Grocery Market, which opened just nine months ago on Melrose Avenue, owner Hisham Al-Ammur vowed to return after repairs to its building are complete.

“We will come back, and we will come back stronger. We will continue to support our community,” he said.

The shop, which offers groceries, a halal butcher counter and a bakery, is awaiting an engineering assessment from its insurer before moving forward with plans to rebuild the roof of its circa-1970s storefront.

Al-Ammuri said he hoped to reopen within two to three months. He was thankful no one was hurt when the cave-in happened Monday morning amid the region’s first snowfall of the season.

No customers were inside at the time, and the owners evacuated staff. The roof sagged inward but didn’t fall down, Al-Ammuri said, as the market’s rows of shelves acted as a support structure.

Roanoke Fire-EMS concluded the roof collapsed under the weight of the snow and water that had accumulated on it.

The snowfall that fell across the region arrived on the heels of a balmy holiday week, and knocked out power to thousands across the Roanoke Valley and Western Virginia. Some of those local customers may have to wait until Thursday afternoon for their lights to come back on, Appalachian Power estimated.

Tuesday evening, 1,158 remained without service in Franklin County, where full restoration wasn’t expected until Thursday. Other persistent outages were clustered to the east of Roanoke, such as in Lynchburg and Bedford. Power may not be fully restored to those localities before Friday afternoon, the utility said.

Appalachian Power said the lingering outages were concentrated in spots that saw a significant buildup of heavy, wet snow. Nearly 500 workers were in the field to get power flowing again.

The Roanoke Grocery Market suffered the only significant property damage reported in the valley caused by the foul weather.

Al-Ammuri said the setback was disappointing as the business had invested in significant renovations when it opened.

The store, which employs three workers, specializes in stocking hard-to-find items and developed a fan base for its bakery’s selection of savory meat, spinach and cheese pies.

Customers have inundated the shop with encouraging messages since the calamity happened. “The people of Roanoke have been really great and supportive,” Al-Ammuri said. “It touches my heart.”

The store is determined to reopen, he added, and to continue its community outreach work. That has included supplying monthly meals to local homeless shelters, and earmarking 5% of its proceeds to donate to autism research.

The market had been in the process of hiring two part-time workers who have autism as part of an initiative to support them in the community. It is a cause that Al-Ammuri felt called to join as he knows several families whose children have autism.

For now, he said, the business is taking it one step at a time as it prepares to navigate through engineering inspections, architectural plans and construction permitting.

He added he continues to look toward the future with optimism.

“I’m a strong believer that, when things happen this way, maybe something better will come out of it,” Al-Ammuri said.

Some public schools in Western Virginia were closed for a second day on Tuesday in the storm’s aftermath, while others held classes on delayed schedules.


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