Fire damages Coosa Valley Milling

Published 10:53 am Thursday, May 5, 2011

Coosa Valley Milling as it burned at about 5:30 a.m. Thursday. (Contributed/Rosemary Liveoak)


WILSONVILLE — At 5:32 this morning, Rebekah Kendrick’s phone rang. The caller was a neighbor, who told her Coosa Valley Milling was on fire.

“I just live the next street over, so I ran to my back door and looked out and saw the smoke,” said Kendrick, who has worked at the mill for the last two years. Part of her job is helping owner Frank McEwen make his world-famous grits.

“I got my husband and son and we put our clothes on and hurried over here.”

Kendrick said when she arrived, only a front corner of the building appeared to be ablaze.

“But in a matter of minutes it spread to the whole place. It was gone,” said Robert Kendrick, her husband, who also works at the mill.

Sheriff’s deputies closed a portion of Alabama 25 at 6:30 a.m. to allow access to firefighters from several departments who battled the blaze. The road was reopened at about 8 a.m.

At 9:30 a.m., smoke still poured from the building as firefighters wrapped up their efforts. Jay Edwards, state fire marshal, along with Shelby County Sheriff’s deputies and investigators were just beginning their work. No determination has been made as to the cause of the blaze. Edwards would not speculate on the amount of damage the business sustained.

About 20 Wilsonville area residents still lined the outside of the property. “Everything in there is gone. The roof caved in,” said one man, who asked not to be named.

A teary-eyed Kendrick said she, out of habit, grabbed a can of cat food and put it in her jacket pocket before she rushed out of her home this morning.

“This was for Katie the cat,” she said. “Katie showed up over 16 years ago and meant she was going to live here. She’s lived in the store ever since. Everyone who comes here knows Katie. I don’t see that there was any way for her to have gotten out.

“I just can’t believe it. Of all the places, this place … It’s just so important to Wilsonville. But you can bet this store isn’t going nowhere. He (McEwen) will open it back up. I’m sure of that,” she added.