CURRITUCK, N.C. (WAVY) — If you’ve driven to the Outer Banks, no doubt you passed “The Cotton Gin.” It had a little bit of everything.
But now, the images you see are painting a picture of destruction from a fast-moving fire.
“The Cotton Gin” has been the Wright family business for decades, but after that massive fire on Saturday, all that’s left is rubble and debris. The family says they’re grateful for the community support and now they hope to rebuild.
“I ran out of my house, didn’t even have my phone,” said owner Tom Wright. “I ran across the field, immediately she tried to look and make sure people were out of the building.”
Wright tried to help as he watched his family’s business go up in flames.
“It was like we couldn’t get it out,” he said.
Firefighters battled the blaze for hours. They couldn’t save the building, but their persistence didn’t go unnoticed.
“I want those people to know that, from our family to theirs, we really appreciate it,” Wright said.
The building started as a cotton gin in the 1920s. Tom’s parents bought it in the 1950s, opening a farmers market and country store in the 60s. In the 70s, he took it over, laying the groundwork for the store many people know and love.
“I think it’s had a lot of impact because it’s touched so many people and they were part of our family and we were part of their family and I think that’s probably some of what is really affecting people,” Wright said.
While the store changed throughout the years, the soul of it never did. That’s why people keep stopping by, saying hi to the family, snapping pictures to remember the good times.
“Our whole family is thankful for the kind words and the messages and every time somebody slows down as they pass by and we wave,” said Tom’s son, John. “Currituck is still like that.”
As for what’s next, the family says they want to rebuild.
John said, “I’d love to rebuild it. I think they would too. That’s what you want to see. It’s just, it took like 90 years to get there.”
For now, they will take it day by day and with the community behind them, they will keep moving forward.
“We’re going to try to pick up the pieces and do what we can to see if we can put it back together,” Tom said.
The family says there is still a lot of clean up to do.
The cause is still under investigation.