An old vacant storefront commercial building at Ira Avenue and Old Main Street in Akron that most recently housed former neighborhood stalwart Smitty's grocery was heavily damaged Monday in an early morning fire.
No injuries were reported.
Firefighters were called to the building at 3 Ira Ave. shortly after midnight.
Three engines, a tower truck, ladder truck and two other vehicles were needed, according to the Akron Fire Department.
At one point, firefighters were pulled away from the building because the structure was unsound. Roads to the site were closed to traffic.
The city-owned building was being demolished by early afternoon.
Smitty's grocery — a Southern food haven — closed in the summer of 2015, not long after the death of its owner/operator Cato "Smitty" Smith at age 100.
Prior to his Aug. 27, 2015, death, Smith and family members had been talking about closing the business in the fall of that year.
Smitty's sold a variety of Southern-food items, including White Lily flour, Dixie Lily corn meal, Jim Dandy quick grits and yellow-eyed beans (a favorite of customers). The meat case boasted such items as slab bacon, jowl bacon, ham shanks, smoked pig tails, sausages and his bologna. All pork, much of it smoked. Produce included vegetables that Smith grew on his small Portage County farm.
The city bought the building a few years before Smitty's closed. Before the city acquired the building, Smitty's almost closed because the building's owner had fallen into foreclosure.
Akron Planning Director Marco Sommerville, then a councilman and recognizing the importance of the grocery to the low-income neighborhood, stepped in and the city bought the building for $73,000.
Fading paint on the front of the building said "Parassons BBQ," revealing the name of an occupant prior to Smitty's.