DENTON, TEXAS - The "Downtown Mini Mall," known for its antiques and interesting items, had been on the square for decades. It all went up in flames early Tuesday morning. The four-alarm fire wiped out four decades of hard work.
On Tuesday afternoon, person after person wandered over to Locust Street to pay their respects to a Denton institution.
Of all the people that came by, none felt the heartache like the children and grandchildren of Leo and Shirley Will, who own the Downtown Mini Mall off the Denton square. "It's home, you know?" Tyler Will said. "It's where we all grew up in a sense."
"I was five when they opened it, so I ran around and hid in secret places," daughter, Stephanie Shipp said.
The Wills opened the local flea market nearly 40 years ago. "The past four years I've worked there," said grandson, Brenden Shipp. "It's hard to see it go."
"It was their livelihood, their life, their life’s work, their legacy," echoed son, Bret Will. "My heart sank. It's like losing a close family member."
Bret and Stephanie said their parents, who are in their mid-70s, haven't fully wrapped their heads around what this all means.
"To think about my parents facing this at their age is very upsetting," Stephanie said.
The family said it's too early to say what's next for them. They have hope they'll be able to re-open the mini mall eventually. They started a GoFundMe for the store, and for the vendors who had booths there.
"It doesn’t just affect them, it affects everybody who had a space in the store," Bret said.
No injuries were reported.
At least 12 businesses inside the Mini Mall were affected by the fire, which is still under investigation, as well as other businesses on the east side of the square.
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