Shoppers ‘heartbroken’ after fire guts popular Delaware farmers market

The charred remains of Willey Farms market in Townsed, Delaware, smolder early Monday morning. (Willey Farms/Facebook)

The charred remains of Willey Farms market in Townsed, Delaware, smolder early Monday morning. (Willey Farms/Facebook)

An early morning fire destroyed most structures at Willey Farms, a popular farmers market in Townsend, Delaware. It’s not clear what caused the fire that broke out around 2 a.m. Monday, and the state fire marshal is investigating.

The market was founded in 1975 by Donald and Irene Willey, selling vegetables from the family farm on an old airline baggage cart. Since then, the market has grown to become a familiar landmark along the heavily traveled Route 13.

“Willey Farms is gone,” the market’s operators said in a post on Facebook. “It will be lots of hard heartbreaking work. But she will be built again. We know that.”

The community’s affection for the market as more than just a place to buy vegetables and flowers was evident by thousands of comments and condolences posted on social media.

“This is sad. A Delaware icon. But you will be all fresh and new soon. Delaware supports your business,” one woman wrote on the market’s Facebook page.

“When you open again, I will be your first customer. I love your business. I am heartbroken for your family, workers, and your community,” wrote another.

The social media attention apparently wasn’t all positive. Later Monday morning, the Willey Farms page posted a warning that someone had posted a bogus GoFundMe page to raise money.

“It has come to our attention that some ‘go fund me’ accounts have been set up with Willey Farms mentioned,” market operators said in a post. “We have not sanctioned any such accounts. And not begun to even think in that direction yet. It’s early days. Please. Be aware and careful when donating to any accounts.”

No one at the farm was hurt in the fire. A firefighter being treated for “stress-related injuries” was in stable condition, according to the Wilmington News Journal.

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