ATHENS (WATE) – An EF-2 tornado tore through the city of Athens more than seven months ago, leveling homes and businesses in its path. Families who have been picking up the pieces and recovering are celebrating this week the re-opening of their neighborhood grocery store.
Save-A-Lot in the heart of Athens was leveled during the November store, but the store built back in the same shopping center, opening Thursday morning.
“We missed it a lot,” said shopper Jeannie Fuller.
Owner Ivan Moskowitz said it’s been a hard seven months dealing with the wreckage of November’s storm and making plans to rebuild.
“Everything was demolished,” he said.
Shoppers walked up and down the aisles on Friday, sharing their memories from that night so many months ago.
“It was just horrifying that we could have something like that come through and demolish it down like it did,” said Frances Richeson.
“We couldn’t believe there was this much devastation just two miles from our house,” added Fuller.
Since rebuilding, the Save-A-Lot store has added 4,000 square feet. They’ve stayed in their original location since the late 1980s.
“It’s been our neighborhood grocery store for a long time,” said Richeson.
Employees say it’s been a busy couple of months and days, but it’s worth it.
“Today is my first time back, it is absolutely gorgeous. It’s just so bright, clean, and fresher,” said Fuller.
Many are thankful for the timing of the storm.
“We were fortunate enough that this happened during the night because if this would’ve happened during the day, there would have been fatalities,” said Moskowitz.
“I just thank God that it happened late at night, early in the morning, and nobody was here. People would’ve run in here to get out of the weather,” added Fuller.
While the weather on Friday was perfect, those who were stocking the shelves or their cart believe one thing.
“Everything happens for a reason,” said Moskowtiz.
Since the tornado, employees at the Athens Save-A-Lot who chose to continue working, moved their shifts to one of the area stores in Sweetwater, Madisonville and Tellico Plains.