ATHENA - A fire Wednesday night gutted the Athena One Stop, a Main Street grocery store in this farming community.
Most of the flames were extinguished by 4:30 a.m. today, but Athena firefighters were still putting out the last embers as of 9 a.m.
Trever Malrony, co-owner of the One Stop, said someone knocked on his door at 11 p.m. telling him the store was on fire. He lives nearby and walked over to watch until the early hours of the morning.
When he arrived, Malrony said the first fire engine was just arriving at the burning building.
"It was just smoking out the other side of the building," Malrony said.
He said the building received the most damage in areas below the tin roof and within the interior building surrounded by brick walls. It was worst on one side where the walls were mostly made of wood, Malrony said.
"There was some pretty good flames," he said. "It torched the corner out pretty good."
Malrony said there had been one day's worth of cash in the store and he tried to retrieve it when he arrived on scene, but firefighters stopped him.
"I got halfway in, but they yanked me out by my drawers," he said.
Malrony said he headed back home around 3 a.m.
"I decided it was going to burn down," he said.
Kelsey Keagle, who runs the One Stop, said she also arrived in the middle of the night.
"All I could do was cry," she said, of watching the building burn.
She said the night had proven to be an emotional roller coaster. By this morning she was able to laugh and joke about the situation.
"It's not the end of the world," she said. "It could be worse."
Keagle also was relieved no one was hurt in the fire.
Malrony said the One Stop served food and sold groceries. It provided a place for locals to gather comfortably.
One of those locals is Dale Webb, who said he'd been having breakfast at the Athena One Stop for 10 years. He and his friends would get together to play cards and talk every morning.
As far as what he would do for his card game, Webb said "nothing probably."
Keagle suggested setting up another table and starting over.
Athena firefighters responded to a call at 10:57 p.m. Wednesday with two engines. Mutual aid assisted from the East Umatilla County Health District with an additional engine.