The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

July 1, 2013

Landmark gone

Historic Princeville store burns


PRINCEVILLE — PRINCEVILLE — Fire roared through a town landmark early Friday morning, leaving nothing but its charred frame and piles of ashes inside where groceries and other merchandise once filled the shelves..

Princeville Fire Department responded to, T&T Grocery around 3 a.m. when the store had long been closed. No one was inside the building, said Princeville Police Chief Joey Petway.

Petway said an initial investigation that included gathering information from Edgecombe County Fire Marshall, Butch Beach, and a SBI investigator, ruled out arson. He said the cause of the fire is believed to be faulty wiring.

However, the owner, Ernest Williams found the fire to be suspicious. Williams said he left the store 6 p.m. Thursday night and everything appeared to be fine. About 10 hours later, he was awakened by knocks on his door and someone telling him his store was on fire.

"That sounds mighty strange," Williams said. "Right now, they said they don't know what caused it, and I don't either. It hurt seeing my store like that."

Seeing the charred remains also hurt the residents of the town.

The wooden plank one story white building uniquely sat in the middle of a fork on US Highway 258 and N.C. Highway 111. Williams became the proprietor of the long-time existing establishment in 1982. Old-timers in Princeville said the store was at least 60 years old.

The store was a popular venue when former mayor, the late Carolyn Powell and her mother, ran the establishment. After Powell died, other proprietors occupied the building including one that used it as a fish market.

This is a great loss to the citizens of Princeville," said Mayor Priscilla Everette-Oates. "A lot of people walked to the store. It was in the heart of the town. My prayers are with the owner and I pray that he can rebuild bigger and better. I pray that the disaster will become a blessing."

William Boyd, 75, said he remembers going to the store when he was 15 years old.

They used to sell gas and some of everything them," he said. "It has been here a long time. I hate to see it burned down because it put a man out of business and it is a monument in the town."

Linda Worsley echoed Boyd's sentiments.

"It was a shock when my son told me that place was gone," she said. "Part of the history is gone. When giving direction you could say, 'down there where Mrs. Carolyn Powell store is' and everybody would know where you were talking about. Now, you can't say that anymore."