Shirley’s Kitchen, a longtime food stand located next to the Clinton Ferry Terminal, was destroyed by an unexplained fire late Thursday.
Authorities confirmed the business was empty at the time, and that no one was injured. The business was uninsured, however, and the building and all of its contents were a total loss.
“Nothing, it’s all gone,” said owner Shirley Wilson. “30 years… .”
Speaking to The Record in front of the shell of her business, Wilson struggled to keep from breaking down. It’s a devastating financial loss, as winter is typically slow and she was just readying for the busy summer season. She was expecting this Sunday, Father’s Day, to be her best day of the year and had just purchased $1,200 of supplies — $500 alone in ice cream — this week.
Instead, she spent Friday morning loading up the charred remains of her livelihood on a trailer to take to the county dump.
Wilson is unsure whether she’ll be able to reopen.
“I don’t know, I have no idea,” she said. “There’s no money to do anything at this point.”
The blaze began about 8 p.m. after the place was locked up for the evening. The blaze appears to have started in the back of the building and was reported by multiple sources, according to South Whidbey Fire/EMS Deputy Chief Jon Beck.
Two engines and 14 firefighters responded to the blaze. Grease buildup in a roof kitchen vent proved a bit stubborn, but the whole thing was over in about 15 minutes, he said.
A cause was undetermined, due to the extent of the damage inside, but its origin was confirmed in the back of the building near kitchen machinery. Beck estimated damages at $75,000 for the contents and $45,000 for the building. Along with the extra food supplies, Wilson had a brand new computer inside that was destroyed and had just topped off her propane tanks.
A favorite of ferry commuters and a fixture in Clinton for about three decades, Shirley’s Kitchen was a recognizable business and its destruction is a stinging loss for both Clinton and the greater South Whidbey area, said Bob Craven, president of the Clinton Chamber.
“She’s been part of the community a long time, certainly a missed business on the South End if she doesn’t reopen,” he said.
The business was known for being a place for teenagers to get their first job. Even some of the firefighters who worked to extinguish the blaze were counted among them.
“Me and my sister both worked there,” said Heidi Beck, Jon Beck’s wife.
Wilson said it was fun providing that experience for young people, while making a living too.
“It was a fun place to work,” she said.
Anyone who wants to help out with financial donations can do so at Whidbey Island Bank. Go to any branch and ask to contribute to the fund, which is under Shirley’s Kitchen and Shirley Wilson.
Aside from simply needing the help, Craven said Wilson’s great contributions over the years, both to the Clinton business community and young people, make her particularly deserving of any financial assistance people can spare.
“I think this is one of those things where the Clinton community can come through and really shine, helping out one of its own,” he said.