Frager's customers, employees speak about incredible loss

Photo: Ben Rice/ABC7

In the neighborhoods around Capitol Hill, the sad reality is setting in: Frager’s Hardware is gone. The landmark store burned Wednesday night. On Thursday, the{ }customers who depended on Frager’s spoke about the loss of a place that was a community staple.

Eastbound lanes of Pennsylvania Avenue reopened in time for rush hour as investigators from D.C. Fire the ATF searched for clues to determine the cause of the fire. They say the investigation could take days, maybe weeks.

Over{ }200 firefighters and 50 trucks from across the District responded to the four-alarm fire. Two suffered minor injuries, but amazingly, no customers or employees were hurt.

“I don’t know what to think right now,” says Frager’s employee Melanie Leonard. “Just unbelievable. Still feels like a dream that the hardware store is gone after all these years.”

Employees, neighbors and loyal customers of Frager’s in Southeast Washington stared in disbelief at the destruction from Wednesday night’s fire.

“It’s just a big loss,” says Terry Snyder.

For several hours, firefighters battled the flames with smoke billowing into the air, visible for miles.

“And as I came home we came up 11th Street and that’s when we saw all this smoke and we were trying to picture which corner, what could it be?” says Debbie Green.

Frager’s opened in 1920 just blocks away from the Capitol. Over the years it’s hosted presidents and political events. For some, the scene Thursday is devastating, like the loss of a loved one.

“You know we knew from the coverage it was gone, but we just wanted to come over and see it,” says Snyder.

After 26 years in the neighborhood, Snyder choked back tears trying to explain why Frager’s means so much to so many.

“First thing you do, you get one of these houses, you know, and well I need one of those, I need to do something else and you’ve got to go to Frager’s,” he says.

“This was the place you went to get what you needed, but in addition you would come here and it would be such a mix of people,” says Traer Sunley.

As investigators look for the cause, possibly in a side lot containing lumber, the store’s owners are vowing to rebuild. The mayor is promising city support.

Meanwhile, neighbors are already raising money for the store and its employees.

“A lot of support from the community and people offering part-time jobs, free food, drinks, just feel very supported,” says Kelly Racer, an employee.

Sixty employees have been displaced by the fire.