Staff and restoration crews are working around the clock restocking shelves at the O’Leary Farmers Co-op after a heating system failure spewed soot and ash through the grocery store.

Workers arriving at the store early Friday found the mess. Provincial officials said to get rid of all the food, except that being held in closed freezers.

Co-op general manager Darren MacKinnon says 40 staff members and 25 workers with a restoration company are working feverishly to empty and then replenish the store.

"You're trying to procure probably six to eight tractor trailer loads to get back in an empty store," MacKinnon said. "It's kind of like having a grand reopening in five days, which is quite a task."

MacKinnon said he hopes the store will be open in about a week. The cause of the heating problem is being investigated.

O'Leary Co-op

The O'Leary Farmers Co-op is in the midst of a large cleanup after a heating failure over the Christmas break. (Laura Meader/CBC)

MacKinnon said the closure has been difficult for people in the area, because the co-op is one of the major retailers in the West Prince region.

Staff, he said, have driven to pick up grocery orders at the Tignish Co-op, about 20 minutes away, and delivered them to seniors unable to make the trip.

"It's a pretty critical time, it's a little bit of a stressful situation," MacKinnon said. "This year we're trying to ensure that everybody's taken care of out there." 

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