St. Jacobs market outdoor section to reopen this week after fire

Management at St. Jacobs Farmers' Market say the outdoor section of the market will be open for business on Thursday, while an investigation continues into a fire that destroyed the main building of the popular southern Ontario tourist destination.

Ontario minister pledges to be "a partner in rebuilding"

An early morning fire gutted the iconic farmers' market Monday. It took 45 firefighters three hours to contain the blaze. (Martin Eisenloeffel)

After a fire destroyed the main building of the St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market north of Waterloo, Ont., early Monday morning, management announced on Twitter that the outdoor section will be open for business this Thursday.

"We want to have the Thursday outdoor market open, as well as the Peddler's Village building — which contains the flea market, as well as some food vendors," said Marcus Shantz, the president of Mercedes Corp. which owns the farmers' market building.

Marcus Shantz, the president of Mercedes Corp. which owns the St. Jacobs Farmers' Market building says the market will be open on Thursday. (Mike McCulloch/CBC)

Investigators have cordoned off an area around the charred iconic main building of the farmers' market.

"We're going to have to move some of the outdoor vendors to different locations because [the fencing] takes up a bit of area," Shantz told The Morning Edition host Craig Norris on Tuesday morning.

"There has been an enormous outpouring from all kinds of people," Shantz said. "People are shocked and saddened and they are looking for a way forward and a plan to get back up and running."

Shantz said helping displaced vendors find a temporary solution is his priority.

"Our focus has been on getting the Thursday market open and the next step is to find a temporary home for the vendors that have been displaced because September and October are going to be very important."

Waterloo region residents have been vocal in their support of the market.

A Facebook page set up Monday, called Hope for St. Jacobs, already has ten thousand "likes."

"All this grass-roots stuff that's happening is fantastic," Shantz said, referring to a speadsheet compiled by a member of the community, Melanie Baker. It lists alternate locations where displaced St. Jacobs vendors can be found.

"We'd encourage people to look at that too."

Emergency sprinkler for rebuild

The next incarnation of the main market building is certain to have an emergency sprinkler system, unlike its predecessor, Shantz said.

"We have done a little musing on what it would look like," Shantz said of early concepts of a future main building. "We’re going to listen very carefully to the community to see what the community wants and that will help to form our direction."

In an interview with Norris on The Morning Edition Tuesday, Ontario Transportation Minister Glen Murray seemed to hint that the province could offer help.

"You can count on the Ontario government to be a partner in rebuilding it. My heartfelt best wishes for the community, because I know how import an asset that is, not just for people in the Waterloo region but for all of us, and an important asset in Ontario," said Murray.

"I'm a regular visitor to it. It's a remarkable facility and I was very sad to hear about the fire," he said.

Murray did not expand on his remarks about what a partnership with the Ontario provincial government might entail.

Ken Seiling, chair of the region of Waterloo council, called St. Jacobs market a "great asset" for the region and said he was confident the structure would be rebuilt, though he said the region would not contribute any funding.

[IMAGEGALLERY galleryid=4978 size=large]

Fire Marshal's office investigating

Lonnie Schubert of the Ontario Fire Marshal’s office said the investigation into the cause is ongoing, but he could not say exactly when the search would be concluded.

"Will it take a few days? It might. Will it take one day? It might," said Schubert. "Bottom line is we need to try and determine exactly where the fire started and how it started."

The Woolwich Fire Department estimates damage to the structure could be as high as $2 million. Chief Rick Pedersen said if a sprinkler system had been installed, the building could have been saved or the damage from the fire could have been minimized.

Woolwich Mayor Todd Cowan said about 60 vendors were affected by the fire, and that the township is planning to do whatever it can to assist in a rebuild of the market.