Supervisors Approve Financial Incentive Package for Berryville Graphics

The Clarke County Board of Supervisors cleared the way for on Tuesday for a $467,200 combination of state and local funding for Berryville Graphics. The funds are being offered as an incentive to the German-owned multi-national corporation to strengthen its position in Virginia.

“The owners of Berryville Graphics, Bertelsmann AG, also own other printing companies in Virginia and other states,” said Supervisor John Staelin (Millwood). “Last fall Bertelsmann looked into consolidating some of its smaller operations into other existing facilities. Senior management at Bertelsmann narrowed the choice for that consolidation down to two possible locations, Louisville, Kentucky and Berryville, Virginia.”

At yesterday’s meeting Staelin said that the Virginia governor’s office knew there was a competition between Kentucky and Virginia for where to locate jobs and equipment used in the company’s printing business.

“If the Kentucky facility had been chosen not only would 84 New York jobs have gone to Kentucky – rather than Virginia – 102 Frederick County jobs would also have been lost as well,” Staelin said. “The Berryville plant could have also been affected in the longer term due to the competitive nature of the industry. Members of the Governor’s office studied the economics of the situation and decided the Commonwealth should offer a total of $467,200 in grants to Berryville Graphics if Clarke County and the Town of Berryville would provide $200,000 of the funds. By State law these offers require a set local match. It was announced that of the State funds, it $67,200 of the grant was to come from the Virginia Jobs Investment Program and $200,000 was to come from the Governor’s Opportunity Fund.”

Staelin said that the Board of Supervisors approval means that Clarke County will spend $106,000 to aid the Governor’s efforts to support Berryville Graphics’s expansion in Clarke County. The Town of Berryville will invest an additional $94,000.

“The County’s share of the funds will come from the ‘profits’ the County received in the past from the sale of Business Park lots,” Staelin said.

Staelin said that the deal will have a positive impact both for Virginia as well as Berryville.

“A total of 186 new jobs will be created at the Berryville facility within three years,” Staelin said. “These jobs must be in addition to the number employed as of January, 19, 2012. At least 84 of those jobs are to be new jobs in Virginia – not jobs transferred from other Virginia locations – and at least 30% of the new jobs must be offered to Virginia residents.

Staelin said that the average wage of the new Clarke County jobs is to be at least $41,584.

Staelin explained that Berryville Graphics will make its investment at the Berryville facility over a three year period and that added tax revenues derived from that three-year expansion is expected to pay back all the local taxpayer funds expended during that same three-year period. “After that, it is expected that the Town and County will receive a total of about $100,000 annually in new tax revenue from the facilities and equipment associated with the expansion,” Staelin said. “That is an annual return of about 50% on the original $200,000 investment in addition to the many other local benefits received by the community’s retention of a fortified Berryville Graphics.”

The Clarke County Board of Supervisors were unanimous in their support of the proposed grants.

“It makes sense to me to encourage a business to stay here and expand in Clarke County,” said Supervisor David Weiss (Buckmarsh).

“I’m glad that an increased percentage of the jobs are staying here in Virginia,” said Supervisor Barbara Byrd (Russell).

“We owe a lot of thanks to John [Staelin] for all of his work to get this accomplished,” said Bev McKay (White Post).

“This is a good step toward economic development in this community,” said Supervisor Michael Hobert (Berryville). “This is an excellent investment for us and the town. This is the kind of partnership that we should be fostering.”

View the “Governor’s Development Opportunity Fund Performance Agreement” here: Berryville Graphics Performance Agreement

Read Supervisor Staelin’s complete statement here:  Staelin Statement Regarding Berryville Graphics Performance Agr

 

Town Authorizes Cash Infusion for Berryville Graphics

Berryville Graphics is a step closer to receiving over $400K in taxpayer funding thanks to a vote by the Berryville Town Council last night. The $467,200 in public grants includes a combination of state and local funding and comes with the expectation that the German-owned company will hire 85 new employees and invest in equipment at its Berryville location.

“Berryville Graphics is the largest employer in town,” said Berryville mayor Wilson Kirby after last night’s unanimous vote to authorize $94K of town funding for the matching grant. “The town of Berryville will benefit and we want to see them grow.”

Berryville Graphics is part of Bertelsmann AG, a German-owned worldwide corporation with interests in entertainment, publishing, printing and distribution. Berryville Graphics produces nearly 120 million books each year at its manufacturing facility in Berryville, Virginia.

Under the proposed cash infusion, which must also be ratified by both the Clarke County Board of Supervisors and the Industrial Development Authority of Clarke County, the Commonwealth of Virginia’s “Governor’s Opportunity Fund” will provide the Berryville Graphics with $200K along with $67K from the “Virginia Jobs Investment Program”.

The $200K of Commonwealth funds must be matched by local funds in order for the deal to happen. Last night’s $94K authorization represents 47% of the required matching funds with the remaining $106K to be considered for approval by the Clarke County Board of Supervisors next Tuesday.

The Clarke County Supervisors and Town officials met in closed session on Monday to discuss the deal but took no action following the meeting. Last night’s Town council meeting was the public’s first glimpse at the agreement between the Town, County and Commonwealth.

Photo Edward Leonard

Under the resolution passed last night, the Town of Berryville will receive $94K from the Industrial Development Authority of Clarke County (IDA), which will act as the fiscal agent for both the state and local funds, to pay for its share of the deal. The funds will then be repaid by the town to the IDA over the subsequent three years beginning in 2013.

Town council member Mary Daniel (Ward 3) said that the Town would make the money back in three years based on economic benefit based on the additional hiring and taxes from new equipment that Berryville Graphics plans to install.

But while the 85 additional jobs will add a welcome boost to the local economy, the new hiring still places Berryville Graphics 33 employees below its 2009 employment position.

In January 2010 Berryville Graphics, eliminated 68 positions in a move designed to cut operating costs. The job cuts were aimed at shoring up the firm’s struggle to remain cost competitive in the global publishing industry. The company also released approximately 50 workers in May 2009 after a smaller layoff in January.

Under the terms of the proposed agreement between the Town and the County, Clarke County is tasked with monitoring Berryville Graphics for compliance with its investment and employment promises.

Terms of the performance agreement with Berryvillle Graphics were not disclosed at last night’s meeting.

New Pharmacy in Berryville Moves Closer to Reality

The saga of Main Street economic decline hit home last May when the pharmacy in Berryville announced it was closing its doors. The loss to the town meant there would be no pharmacy in the entire county and would burden residents with longer trips to have prescriptions filled.

So, when news of a new pharmacy opening on Crow Street broke there was much excitement and enthusiasm. Reed’s Pharmacy, which currently has two locations in West Virginia and one in Maryland, had signed a lease to open their fourth location in Berryville. However, with no sign of progress months later, people began to wonder if it was really going to happen. Rumors of the “deal falling through” started to pop up in conversations in town as the months wore on so we contacted the owners to get the facts.

Tally Reed told us, “Those rumors are definitely not true. We have had some delays but we are looking forward to opening in Berryville and serving the community there.”

Kenneth and Tally Reed are the owners of Reed’s Pharmacies and they say their plans have not changed. They said they have acquired all the necessary permits and hope to get the build-out of the new space underway soon.

As work continues towards opening their fourth location, the Reeds will be counting on their proven approach in small communities to make the Berryville store a success. With stores in Berkley Springs WV, Hedgesville WV, and Hancock MD, the business seems to have carved out  a sustainable approach to operating in small communities. When asked about their success Tally said, “I believe we have been successful with our pharmacies because each one has been customized to meet the needs of the community it serves.  Every store has it’s own ‘feel.’  Unlike the big chains we do not try and ‘copy’ one store to the next.  We also try and keep things very simple and provide our customers with knowledgeable, friendly, and efficient service.”

Tally also said the new Berryville location will help them compete in an already difficult marketplace that is dominated by large corporate stores, “By continuing to expand we have more ‘buying power’ and can increase our profitability from the buying end.”

She added, “I guess there are no BIG secrets to our success.  We work hard, hire good people, and do our best to make customers happy!”

The Reeds have no firm date for the store opening, but say it will be soon.

Potomac Pedalers Hope to Avoid Bumps Caused by Earlier Bike Event

A Washington-area biking club is seeking to differentiate itself from another biking group that visited the Berryville area earlier this summer but failed to deliver much of the economic punch that area businesses had hoped for.

Organizers of Bike Virginia, a pedaling organization that spent five days in and around Clarke County in June, had said that the tour’s impact on local economies in rural areas brings over $2.8 million in spending and indirect revenue. But the high hopes for an economic bump to Berryville merchants from the event quickly evaporated as Bike Virginia riders apparently carried their wallets toward the bright lights of Winchester at the end of each day of biking.

Now another biking group, Potomac Pedalers which is planning its Back Roads Century ride through Clarke County on Sunday, September 23, 2012, is trying to smooth some of the feathers that may have been ruffled by Bike Virginia’s less-than-hoped-for delivery.

“We are a 501(c)(3), non profit, 2,500+ strong bicycle club in the Washington DC area,” said Potomac Pedalers chairman Robert Bernstein in a letter to area leaders and media outlets. “For the past number of years we have had our premier event, the Backroads Century in the Berryville/Clarke County/Jefferson County area. This is our major fundraiser, allowing us to give grants in accordance with our By Laws purpose. Having successfully grown this event over the past three years from 700 riders to 2,000 riders, we feel it is time to involve the community more. We have already begun reaching out to local businesses for the supplies we need, but we wish to do more.”

Bernstein said that unlike Bike Virginia, Potomac Pedalers returns to the Clarke County area every year and is “linked inexorably to the community and we wish the community to feel linked to us and to look forward to our ride.”

To ensure that Potomac Pedalers’s message reaches community leaders Bernstein  plans to meet with any interested parties at the Barns of Rose Hill in Berryville on Wednesday, 12 September from 7 to 9 PM.

“I will start the meeting with a short history of the Backroads Century,” Bernstein said. “I will continue with some of the challenges that we face and my vision of the future. I will then entertain questions. I hope that my vision excites you and that this, as Humphrey Bogart said in Casablanca, ‘is the start of a great friendship.’”

Bernstein said “We want our riders to savor the area and to return at other times during the year.”

Santorini Grill Reopens After Fire

Greek cuisine makes a triumphant return to downtown Berryville as the Santorini Grill reopens Friday, August 24th. The restaurant, which originally opened on March 23rd of this year, was forced to close for almost eight weeks after a fire occurred on July 3rd. A refrigeration compressor used to power a walk-in cooler caught fire and quickly spread to the walls of the small room where it was located at the back of the restaurant.

Santorini Grill owner Tom Diamantis said, “The fire happened very quickly and it was very intense. It destroyed everything in the room.”

Although the fire was contained to the room on the back of the structure, the intense heat caused extensive damage to the room and the equipment housed there. Additionally, smoke from the fire entered the main structure and necessitated a thorough cleaning of the entire building before the restaurant would be ready for business once again.  Coordination of all the work with insurance and the property owner took time and as days slipped into weeks the business owners worked diligently to get their restaurant open once again. Diamantis said, “It was a small fire, but there was a lot of work that needed to be done before we could open again.”

Now, work has been completed and Santorini’s is ready to once again begin serving their Greek specialties to the community. Diamantis said, “We are very happy to reopen and get back to business in Berryville.”

Supervisors Question Verizon Monopole Proposal

A cellular telephone monopole antenna special use permit being requested by Verizon Wireless ran into additional problems from the Clarke County Board of Supervisors last night. Two Supervisors said that they were reluctant to approve a zoning buffer waiver for an access road to the proposed tower site and another Supervisor raised questions about who stood to benefit from the improved coverage promised from the tower.

Last night’s public hearing turned out to be informational only as County staff had already informed the Supervisors that Verizon had not yet addressed several outstanding site plan requirements previously raised by the Clarke County Planning Commission. Even so, Verizon’s entire site plan team, including legal counsel, public relations and a road engineer appeared before the Supervisors to once again make a case for approving an access road necessary for the project to move forward.

Three members of the public also attended the meeting including Pastor Karen Adams of Mount Carmel United Methodist Church – located in the eastern part of Clarke County – whose land adjoins property owned by Philip Thomas of Middleburg where the tower site has been proposed.

Verizon is asking the Supervisors to approve moving a nearby monopole tower to a higher location above Mount Carmel Church. However, the plan ran into trouble when church elders and Mr. Thomas were unable to reach an agreement over a right away easement through the Church’s parking lot that would have allowed tower maintenance access for Verizon personnel.

Although Verizon Wireless has repeatedly stated that it expects to use the access road about once a month, Mount Carmel Church members have expressed concerns that Mr. Thomas will use the easement right of way to build two houses on the currently inaccessible land.

When negotiations between Thomas and the church failed to reach a consensus, Verizon developed an alternate plan to build a road directly from Mount Carmel Road to the tower site. But engineering challenges related to the steep terrain associated with the site required that the maintenance road pass within a few feet of the church’s property line.

Clarke County zoning requirements require that a 25-foot vegetative buffer must be preserved between an access road and an adjacent property. At last night’s public hearing Verizon Wireless attempted to persuade the Supervisors and planning staff to grant a variance to the buffer requirement but had little success.

“Verizon will have negligible traffic on the road,” said Verizon attorney David Lasso “Probably one truck per month. The Thomas’s would also be able to use the road.”

“Just to be clear, the property has two dwelling unit rights and the entrance would serve two homes, right,” asked Supervisor David Weiss (Buckmarsh).

“Yes,” responded Clarke County Zoning Administrator Jesse Russell.  “The Supervisors have the authority to restrict the road to a particular use if it so chooses. The road is designed to be twelve feet wide. The County’s standard for a driveway is fourteen feet wide.”

Weiss then seemed incredulous that Verizon had not been able to reach an access compromise with the church that would avoid the need to build the road at all.

“Is there any way that Verizon can work with you to get an easement option?” Weiss asked Mount Carmel Church Pastor Karen Adams.

“It wasn’t so bad when just Verizon wanted to come through our parking lot,” Adams replied. “But they wanted a reciprocal agreement that would have allowed traffic from any new houses to go through our parking lot as well. That was the problem.”

Weiss then addressed the Verizon Wireless team.

“I am not very comfortable waiving the 25-foot buffer requirement on this road,” Weiss said.

Supervisor Bev McKay (White Post) supported Weiss’s position and added a new concern.

“I tend to agree with David [Weiss],” McKay said. “I’m also concerned that the road has the potential for 600 trips per month if the land owner puts two houses on it. I’m uncomfortable waiving the buffer on a road that could have 600 trips.”

Supervisor Chairman Michael Hobert (Berryville) and Supervisor Barbara Byrd (Russell) also questioned the value of the increased Verizon coverage to Clarke County citizens. Byrd questioned the relatively narrow increased coverage area that the monopole will deliver primarily along the Route 50 corridor west of the Blue Ridge.

“How many additional Clarke County households will gain service from the new antenna,” Hobert asked.

“Our goal is to provide reliable coverage along Route 50 as it goes into Berryville,” replied Verizon’s Barb Pivec. “We don’t know how many households will gain service.”

“So your priority is to provide service to mobile phone customers travelling through our area?” Hobert replied.

“The monopole will give strong coverage along Route 50 but will also cover houses that happen to be in the coverage area” Pivec replied.

The Supervisors agreed to take no action on the special use permit and continued the public hearing until its next regular meeting in September.

Loudoun Winery to Open Retail Endeavor in Clarke

The new business will be located in the soon to be vacated location of The Midas Touch at 1025 West Main Street

A successful Loudoun County vineyard is launching a new Wine Bar and they have selected Clarke County as the location for their endeavor.

Notaviva Vineyards has announced the opening of their new retail operation that will be called the Concertino Wine Tasting and Listening Room to be located across from the Ruritan Fair Grounds on West Main Street. Stephen Mackey, owner of Notaviva said, “This is a wonderful opportunity for Notaviva Vineyards. Expanding westward brings us closer to the relatively untapped wine markets of neighboring Clarke County, Winchester and the Interstate 81 corridor.”

Notaviva Vineyards is located in western Loudoun and was founded in 2002 by the husband and wife team of Stephen and Shannon Mackey. Their foray west into the Shenandoah Valley will offer tastings of selections from their vineyard as well as other Virginia wines. Stephen said, “Visitors to Concertino will have the opportunity to enjoy a Notaviva tasting, or they may choose from our monthly selection of wine flights. For example, a viognier flight might include the Notaviva ‘Vincerò’ as well as others from Loudoun and Clarke counties. A cabernet franc flight might pair the Notaviva ‘Cantabile’ with one from the Monticello AVA and another from the Shenandoah Valley AVA. By demonstrating the superb quality of Virginia wines as well as illustrating the differences in regional terroir, we believe we can both educate our customers as well as foster camaraderie within our industry.”

Clarke County Economic Development Coordinator Jesse Russell said the business is a good fit for Clarke, “Clarke County does want to promote more agritourism and farm wineries and their allowable spin-off to tasting rooms such as this to a certain degree is agritourism.  We currently have two farm wineries in Clarke, Veramar and Twin Oaks Tavern Winery, both located just off of Rt. 7 and this new business is following a pattern of winery locations in the county and wineries bring tourists to our area.”

However, the experience that the Mackeys hope to bring to Clarke County is about much more than wine. Stephen has a passion for music that manifests itself in his approach to the wine business. Each of their wines is paired with a musical genre or lyrical inspiration with the goal of capturing the feelings that music can create in their wines. The Concertino Wine Tasting and Listening Room will amplify that approach and provide a live performance venue for local talent.

Shannon Mackey said that the new venture has been received well. “Clarke County has welcomed us with open arms. Clarke Economic Developer, Jesse Russell, was a pleasure to work with, and several local businesses have kindly reached out with words of welcome. I am confident we can bring the relationships we have forged in Loudoun together with those awaiting us in Clarke and Frederick counties, for the mutual benefit of all.”

The business is currently scheduled for an August 11th grand opening and will be located at 1025 West Main Street just outside of the Town of Berryville in the soon to be vacated location where the Midas Touch operated for several years.

Cell Tower Request Approved Over Objections From Church

On Friday the Clarke County Planning Commission approved a special use permit request by Verizon Wireless to relocate a cellular antenna tower from its current location off Mount Carmel Road to a higher location near historic Mount Carmel United Methodist Church. The special use request now goes before the Clarke County Board of Supervisors where, if approved, the tower will mean better cellular service for Verizon customers. However, church representatives say that they have spent thousands of dollars in unnecessary lawyer fees and want Verizon to cover the bill.

Expanded Verizon Wireless coverage area if a tower relocation request is approved by the Clarke County Board of Supervisors – map courtesy Verizon Wireless

“Jesus tells his disciples ‘I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore, be as a shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves’,” Mount Carmel United Methodist Church pastor Karen Adams told the Clarke County Planning Commission prior to the Commission’s vote to approve the special use permit on Friday. “Mount Carmel sets on .623 acres, a very small plot of ground, and we do try keep our grounds as clean and neat as possible. Ministry takes place both inside the building and outside on the grounds as we fellowship during fundraisers. Mount Carmel operates on a very small budget, most of the time it is from month to month, which is why we do so many fund raisers.”

Adams said that the uninvited arrival of many different cellular tower relocation proposals over the last year, all targeted on using the church’s small amount of acreage, have kept the small community of Mount Carmel anxious and confused.

“Mount Carmel has had to hire a lawyer to protect our interests,” Adams said. “We have had deeds researched, papers pulled, and more meetings than we care to think about. In short we have been mislead repeatedly, spent money we really don’t have, plus all the tension and anxiety the congregation has felt.”

“This project was promised as a ‘win-win’ situation for all concerned but, the only win-win was for Verizon and Phil Thomas” Adams said.

Mr. Thomas currently owns the land surrounding the two-century-old Mount Carmel United Methodist Church property. Thomas, who owns Thomas and Talbot Real Estate in Middleburg, Virginia, will receive financial compensation from Verizon for the placement of the cellular tower on his property above the church, however, the financial terms of the agreement between Thomas and Verizon have not been disclosed.

Current Verizon Wireless coverage near Millwood, Virginia – map courtesy Verizon Wireless

On Friday, after months of discussion, the Planning Commissioners finally approved Verizon’s special use permit over the objections of the church. The approval includes the development of a new road on Mr. Thomas’s property to access the tower. Verizon representatives told the Planning Commissioners that the road will pass within three feet of the church’s property with no room to place a vegetative buffer between the church and the road.

However, Verizon did offer to place the vegetative buffer on church property if Mount Carmel United Methodist Church agreed.

Clarke County zoning requirements call for a minimum twenty five feet of clearance between a new road and any adjoining property. A mandatory vegetative buffer is also required. Approval of Verizon’s request for a variance to the buffer was based on the steep terrain and a large rock outcrop directly in the path of the proposed road.

“The lack of the buffer zone will impact us,” Adams told the Planning Commissioners. “If I were sitting where you are I would say ‘No’ to this proposal.”

In approving the special use permit the Planning Commissioners added requirements that Verizon work with the church to address the visual impact of the road from church property, address construction concerns raised by the County’s consulting engineer, Chester Engineering, and preclude any road construction work from taking place on Sunday.

After the meeting Adams said that she felt like the church had very little leverage to use in protecting its interested due to the powerful parties involved in pushing the tower relocation forward.

“Mount Carmel is the weak and poor fighting the wolves at our door; we have had to be shrewd and yet remain true to our faith statement ‘To be for ourselves and the world who Jesus called us to be’” Adams said. “We stand firm – no reciprocal agreement, a monetary sum to cover our expenses and peace to continue our ministry on the mountain.”

Planning Commissioner Jon Turkel (Millwood) voted against approval of the special use permit. Planning Commissioner Scott Kreider (Buckmarsh) was absent from Friday’s meeting.

 

Double Tollgate Report Offers Few Solutions

A Clarke County Planning Commission subcommittee has kicked the Double Tollgate economic development tin-can a bit further down the road. After months of meetings conducted at the request of the Clarke County Board of Supervisors and intended to deliver a new economic vision for the under-utilized commercial area in southern Clarke County, the Planning Commission subcommittee’s report was formally forwarded for consideration by the County Supervisors. The set of recommendations delineates the area’s challenges but offers few solutions for spurring economic growth in the area.

Double Tollgate is located in the southwestern portion of Clarke County, Virginia

One member of the Double Tollgate subcommittee opposed sending the document forward at all.

“The Board of Supervisors gave us the challenge of coming up with a plan outlining what to do with Double Tollgate,” said Planning Commissioner Richard Thuss (Buckmarsh). “I favored providing specific recommendations for the cost of providing water and sewer knowing that that the options will be expensive. Other members of the committee wanted to address Double Tollgate as part of a bigger redesign of the County’s comprehensive plan. I can’t support sending the report forward to the Supervisors because I wanted specific answers for Double Tollgate.”

The Double Tollgate subcommittee recommendations include:

–          No cost-effective, publicly-provided sewage treatment option was identified. The committee investigated other options than were presented in the Chester Engineering report of 2011. This issue will be re-visited during the 2012 Comprehensive Plan update.

–          Given current economic conditions, the committee did not entertain the option of amending regulations to allow for a wider range of private septic systems. The committee recommends deferring consideration of such short-term amendments until long-term planning for the area is evaluated anew during the 2012 Comprehensive Plan update.

–          At present, any commercial development at Double Tollgate will need to rely on owner-financed, individual sewage treatment options under our current regulations.

–          There may be long-range availability of cost-effective public sewer which would make commercial development at Double Tollgate more attractive than at present. However this is unpredictable due to current economic conditions.

–          There is no current cost-effective source of public water. Individual wells will be required for any commercial development.

–          Given the above difficulties regarding commercial development at Double Tollgate, no changes to the Highway Commercial acreage at Double Tollgate are recommended.

–          It is not recommended that a consultant be engaged specifically to evaluate Double Tollgate. However, any consultant utilized for the 2012 Comprehensive Plan update will be asked to address Double Tollgate issues, particularly with regard to allowed uses and other Zoning Ordinance changes. During this review, triggers for public investment in sewer/water infrastructure should be developed and clearly defined to address future demand.

–          For near-term commercial development, the county should focus on those areas with already existing or readily available sewer and water, given the sewer/water difficulties at Double Tollgate.

–          Long-term, the attraction for private commercial development at Double Tollgate is difficult to predict. As noted above, an identified series of triggers should prompt re-evaluation of public investment in Double Tollgate infrastructure in the future. – The county should consider unique commercial enterprises which do not require sewer/water availability, such as an expanded solar farm, in the Double Tollgate area. Joint venture with the Commonwealth and the Department of Corrections could be pursued.

Planning Commissioner Scott Kreider was absent from today’s meeting.

 

Fire Temporarily Closes Santorini Grill

A small but intense fire has placed a popular Berryville eating establishment temporarily out of business for at least the next few days.

A Tuesday afternoon fire destroyed a pair of refrigeration units and closed Santorini Grill in Berryville, Virginia – Photo Edward Leonard

Santorini Grill owner Tom Diamantis said that a refrigeration compressor used to power a walk-in cooler and a freezer caught on fire around 4:15 pm on Tuesday afternoon. Diamantis said that blaze quickly spread to the walls of the small room located at the back of the restaurant where the refrigeration units are housed.

“The fire happened very quickly and it was very intense,” Diamantis said. “It destroyed everything in the room.”

On-scene commander Captain Mike White of Enders Fire Company said that quick work by Berryville Town Police kept the fire from possibly causing more severe damage.

“When we arrived the fire was in check thanks to the town police,” White said. “We were able to fully extinguish the blaze quickly.”

Photo courtesy Mark Jenkins

White said that in addition to Enders Fire Company, units from Shenandoah Farms, Boyce, Shenandoah Retreat and Greenwood Fire Company in Frederick County also responded to the alarm at 108 South Buckmarsh Street.

“Our response matrix for a commercial structure fire requires that level of response,” White said. “Also, with the high heat today, it’s better to have more resources rather than less just in case they’re needed.”

Diamantis said that right now he could not speculate when his restaurant will reopen.

“I haven’t been able to reach our insurance company and the Health Department will have to inspect before we are allowed to reopen,” Diamantis said. “Government offices will be closed tomorrow since it is the Fourth of July, so it seems like Thursday would be the soonest.”

Photo courtesy Mark Jenkins

“The fire has really knocked us out for the moment.”

Photo Edward Leonard

Five fire companies responded to a blaze at Santorini Grill – Photo Edward Leonard