Grif's — an iconic western wear and feed store that attracted customers worldwide — was demolished in a fire Saturday despite the efforts of more than 100 firefighters.
Al Griffin promises to rebuild Grif's Western.
"My family's been here [in Broward] since 1908 so we plan to stay here. I'm staying," said the founder and owner of two western wear and feed stores that have been around for up to 40 years.
Firefighters from several cities and Broward County battled flames for hours at the store in the 5700 block of North State Road 7 in Coconut Creek.
The fire broke out about 6:15 a.m. Saturday. Passing motorists noticed flames and smoke shooting through the roof and alerted authorities.
The spokesman for the firefighting effort, Capt. Mike Moser of the Coral Springs Fire Department, said no one was inside at the time. One firefighter was treated on the scene after being overcome by the heat.
Authorities said the building appears to be a complete loss. State fire marshals will try to determine the cause of the blaze but it may take days.
Several distraught employees arrived to see their livelihood go up in flames.
"It's devastating," said Sindi P'Pool, the store manager. "It's really touched everybody. I have six employees and that was my first thought. Where am I going to put them?"
She is going to try to place the workers at the other Grif's Western store in Davie. Griffin said management would meet Tuesday to talk about ways to keep everyone.
Cindy Lane runs the Hearts For Horses rescue ranch in Coconut Creek and is a regular customer of Grif's. She said she'll rely on weekly feed deliveries from the Davie store now.
"It kind of makes you sick to know all those nice saddles went up in flames," she said, "I can't believe this happened. It's terrible."
Griffin first opened the Davie store 40 years ago when the area was "horse and cattle country." He had been buying feed from a farm supply company that went out of business and saw an opportunity.
Then 36 years ago, Griffin opened the Coconut Creek store. At the time, most of that area was tomato and green pepper farms. The store was damaged by Hurricane Wilma in 2005 but was repaired and reopened.
"It was hard work and a lot of years," he said. "We started small and grew a little bit every year."
Griffin said the store has attracted shoppers from as far away as Germany, Sweden, Brazil and the Philippines. He believes they visit his stores because "they want the real authentic cowboy stuff."