Moncton brothers devastated after fire destroys their small produce business
A devastating weekend fire has destroyed a growing produce business owned by two Moncton brothers, forcing them to start all over from the ground up.
Julian and Jesse Howatt started “Local by Atta” two years ago. The pair sells locally grown greens to high-end restaurants in Greater Moncton, and were planning an expansion.
“It’s a big blow, we put a lot of time into the business and it’s hard to see it all kind of go up in flames,” Julian told Global News Monday.
The fire broke out at the back of the building at about 5 p.m. Sunday. Moncton Fire prevention Officer Brian Parker said about 21 firefighters were on scene until about 3 a.m. fighting the blaze.
“It was a very stubborn fire, it was between walls and the ceiling and it took them several hours to try and extinguish it,” Parker said.
From the outside the building looks like an old auto shop, but inside the Howatt’s grew and sold $100,000 a year worth of lettuce, basil, Swiss chard and micro-greens.
“We serve the Dieppe Market, Corn Crib and a number of restaurants locally, and weekly basket programs,” said Julian.
But now he says those customers will have to go without. The fire destroyed at least $10,000 worth of crops they had just planted.
“We planted stuff yesterday that would have been harvested in seven weeks and so everything in that regard is lost,” he said, adding that he doesn’t think the crops were insured.
Plans to rebuild
They are hoping to salvage some of their equipment, which is covered by insurance, in an effort to get back on their feet.
The Howatt’s, who became business partners two years ago, say they’ll get through this together and aren’t giving up, with plans to re-launch the business in the fall.
“I would not want to go through this with anyone else but him,” Jesse said.
The brothers were planning to move out of the building in the summer to accommodate an expansion. But now that plan is on hold as they make plans to re-grow their entire business.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation.
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