With Sayers Foods destroyed by fire, access to food is immediate challenge for Apsley residents

North Kawartha mayor Carolyn Amyotte says 'next steps will be to mobilize for food organization'

Members of the North Kawartha Fire Department continue to extinguish a fire at Sayers Foods in Apsley that happened early in the morning of December 5, 2020. The building was severely damaged in the fire and will need to be demolished, according to North Kawartha mayor Carolyn Amyotte. Until Sayers Food is able to rebuild, residents of the village of Apsley and the surrounding area will need to travel to Bancroft for groceries. (Photo: OPP)
Members of the North Kawartha Fire Department continue to extinguish a fire at Sayers Foods in Apsley that happened early in the morning of December 5, 2020. The building was severely damaged in the fire and will need to be demolished, according to North Kawartha mayor Carolyn Amyotte. Until Sayers Food is able to rebuild, residents of the village of Apsley and the surrounding area will need to travel to Bancroft for groceries. (Photo: OPP)

The generosity of the Apsley community is going to help them get through the loss of their only grocery store, Sayers Foods, which burned down early on Saturday morning (December 5).

Exactly one week ago, area residents came together at Sayers Food to collect more than $21,000 worth of non-perishable food for North Kawartha Food Bank, a member of Kawartha Food Share, located right across the street from the grocery store. The event was part of Kawartha Food Share’s “Winter is Coming” food drive, held in communities across Peterborough County.

Now some Apsley residents may be relying on that donated food in the short term, according to North Kawartha mayor Carolyn Amyotte, who spoke to kawarthaNOW Saturday morning after she returned from “giving my town of Apsley a big hug.”

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“Getting the fire out first is a priority today,” said Amyotte. “Our next steps will be to mobilize for food organization.”

“One of the great things about Apsley is that it’s self-sufficient,” she said. “Many people who live here have no need to drive, as we have all services needed here in town.”

Except now, with the loss of Sayers Foods, locals will need to shop at the nearest grocery store, which is located 45 kilometres north in Bancroft. This means residents without a vehicle have no access to food.

North Kawartha mayor Carolyn Amyotte (second from right) with Peterborough-Kawartha MPP Dave Smith (middle) during a food drive at Sayers Foods on November 28, 2020, which raised more than $21,000 worth of food for North Kawartha Food Bank, located right across the street. Some Apsley residents may be relying on the food bank in the short term now that fire has destroyed Sayers Foods, the only grocery store in the Apsley area. (Photo: Dave Smith / Facebook)
North Kawartha mayor Carolyn Amyotte (second from right) with Peterborough-Kawartha MPP Dave Smith (middle) during a food drive at Sayers Foods on November 28, 2020, which raised more than $21,000 worth of food for North Kawartha Food Bank, located right across the street. Some Apsley residents may be relying on the food bank in the short term now that fire has destroyed Sayers Foods, the only grocery store in the Apsley area. (Photo: Dave Smith / Facebook)

Amyotte says the mayor of Bancroft and the local community transit system have already reached out offering transportation and assistance for those wishing to shop in Bancroft. However, the pandemic is going to make the logistics of that more complicated.

“It’s not like we can load a bus with people and transport them to shop,” she said. “We need to get this figured out.”

As for the fire itself, Amyotte noted the fire chief told her the cause is not yet known.

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Members of the North Kawartha Fire Department worked through the night to control the blaze, and prevented the fire from spreading to nearby buildings. Amyotte says the fire department had to pull water from the creek, and that public works needed to sand the roads due to the water used to fight the fire freezing.

Fortunately, no injuries were reported.

A portion of Burleigh Street in Apsley, where Sayers Food is located, remains closed while the building is being demolished. The roof of the back portion of the building caved in and, although the front portion of the building — which is 150 years old — is still standing, it is also severely damaged.

Sayers Foods in Apsley was engulfed in flames in the early morning of December 5, 2020. (Photo: Sayers Foods / Facebook)
Sayers Foods in Apsley was engulfed in flames in the early morning of December 5, 2020. (Photo: Sayers Foods / Facebook)

Sayers Food is independently owned and operated by the Sayers family, who live in the village. The fire is a triple tragedy for the family, as family members also work at the store and Christmas gifts were being stored there.

“Sayers is the heart of our town and our heart is a little burnt right now,” Amyotte said, pointing out that Sayers has gone “above and beyond during the pandemic” to ensure local residents were kept well-stocked.

As for owner Jeff Sayers, Amyotte said he was surprisingly upbeat when she spoke to him. He told her Sayers plans to rebuild and that he “is already talking about a bigger build.”

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As news of the fire spread, there has been an outpouring of support from the community, including from other local businesses and several cottage associations.

The fire at Sayers Food comes almost 10 years to the day when Kemp’s gas station, previously located at Burleigh and Wellington streets in Apsley, was destroyed by fire.

As many have heard the news of the fire at our local Sayers grocery store overnight we would like to offer our community…

Posted by Lakeview Cottages & Marina on Saturday, December 5, 2020

I just got home from being in town. I had to give Apsley a big hug. I have met with Jeff Sayers, Fire Chief Lambe and…

Posted by Mayor Carolyn Amyotte on Saturday, December 5, 2020

Such heartbreaking news?? Sayers is a staple in our community. We are so grateful no one was hurt and are sending our…

Posted by Apsley Home Hardware Building Centre on Saturday, December 5, 2020

This morning I was in Apsley to offer my support to Jeff and everyone at Sayers Food Town. A 3 generation family…

Posted by Dave Smith on Saturday, December 5, 2020

 

This story has been updated with selected reactions to the fire posted on social media.

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