This store was a community staple offering food and friendship. Fire investigators still don't know the cause but neighbors hope the store won't be gone for good.
At the corner of Walker and Neptune, devastation and loss piled up on the hearts of people. Betty Stokes says, "I just hate to see it burn down, it really hurted me."
Flames destroyed Lester's Grocery and Deli store just before midnight Tuesday. It's the kind of neighborhood store which stood the test of time, operating for decades.
Longtime resident Diane Washington says, "when you walk in store, just like walking into a relative house, that's the warmth you got when you went into Lester's store, I'm gonna miss it."
The South Memphis store was a community staple, which offered more than bites of Tamales. "the older people in the high rise they needed that store, cause they don't want to walk way around the corner up the street," says Stokes.
Betty Stokes says the store owner poured support to people. "He gave all of us jobs at one point in time, you know if you need something you can always get from Mr. Lester and pay him when you get it."
Fire crews say fast-moving flames and debris caused the building to quickly collapse. Without the local store, some Lemoyne Owen students say they'll travel farther out for home-cooked grub. Jeamyia says, "pizza, hot wings, whatever you wanted." Diane Washington says, "and the cookin, home cookin."
The fire department says three people lived above the store, but no one was injured.
While the flames could not be stopped, many pray ester's name will re-surface above the rubble. "I hope him the success to rebuild the store back," says Washington.
There is still no word on the case of the fire.