THE East Albury IGA is closed indefinitely after fire caused damage of more than $1 million to it early yesterday.
Bins, full of cardboard boxes and clothes, at the back of the Borella Road shop, were set alight at 12.25am.
The fire spread to the storeroom, destroying 20 per cent of the supermarket’s stock.
Even after ram-raids and vandalism attacks, manager J.P. Mathews said it was the first time the store had to close.
“Even when all of those things happened, we were ready to open at 7am the next day,” Mr Mathews said.
“It’s devastating. “We’ve owned supermarkets for 25 years and this is the worst thing that’s happened to us.
“It’s the first time we’ve had to close the doors but, look, we’ll bounce back.”
Mr Mathews said while he was unsure how long the clean-up would take, he expected the store to be closed for about six weeks.
“This has a huge impact on the staff,” Mr Mathews said.
“They no longer have anywhere to work.
“Hopefully, we’re not closed very long.
“We’ll need staff to help clean up. We’ve sent them to our Springdale Heights store and hopefully customers go there as well.”
Mr Mathews said the damage bill could be more than $1 million.
Customers arriving at the shop early yesterday were shocked to learn what had happened.
“I think it’s very sad,” said loyal shopper Judith Stanley, 81.
“The supermarket is local and I think we should be supporting it.”
The store’s delivery van driver, Ray Trebilcock, said the inside of the storeroom looked like a “war zone”.
“This place has been broken into, broken into and broken into — how much more can they take?” Mr Trebilcock said.
Albury police acting inspector Tim Winkelman said the fire was a “cruel act”.
He said investigators were hoping security vision would be recovered from the store.
He said people who live nearby and passers-by could be crucial to solving the crime, and anyone who had seen or heard anything should come forward.
NSW Fire and Rescue commander Stewart Alexander said the quick work of 15 firefighters from Albury Civic and Albury Central stations had prevented the fire spreading further.
“They did an excellent job — it could’ve been a lot worse,” Inspector Alexander said.
Anyone with information can phone Albury police on (02) 6023 9299 or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.