Shock and horror - this is how Leo Goria described his emotions as he watched the Summer Winds Nursery in San Jose burn to the ground in a fire that sparked just before midnight Wednesday.
Goria, the Vice President of Operations for the seven Summer Winds nurseries in the Bay Area, says there is nothing more important right now than rebuilding this anchor location and making sure the two dozen current employees have jobs.
As he looked at the aftermath in the daylight, Goria added, "Now in the morning, now that the sun's up, you're dealing with the reality of what's happened and you wonder, how can we get back in business? Because we're [going to] be back."
Firefighters battled the three-alarm blaze that caused a great concern of toxic runoff, and severely ravaged the sprawling building.
In an unusual move that firefighters said was necessary in this case, the blaze was allowed to burn and actually eat the significant amounts of pesticides, insecticides and fertilizers, which are typically for sale at the nursery.
Capt. Mike Van Elgort said the worry was that if the chemicals weren't consumed by the fire, they would gush into the nearby Gaudalupe River. That decision was made, Van Elgort said, after crews determined the building on Almaden Expressway near Branham Lane was a total loss.
Goria says he was extremely impressed by the San Jose firefighters and how they handled the blaze.
"San Jose Fire Department was unbelieveable last night in how they reacted to it. What they did and how they kept us informed in very hectic situation, they were just fantastic."
As of Wednesday afternoon, crews were still on scene putting out hot spots. What sparked the fire is still unknown, but firefighters do not initially believe it was intentionally set. Fire Captain Mike Van Elgort says the initial fire appears to be near where the electrical box was.
As Goria looks to rebuild, neighbors-turned-customers like Chris Monahan, who says he has been shopping here for decades, are worried about the two dozen employees who work here.
"I hope all these employees can work until the site is relocated because we don’t need anymore unemployment, especially with a good group like here."
Goria vows not only to rebuild for the customers, but to make sure the loyal employees have jobs in the meantime.
"We value our customers a lot and we will be back. We value our employees a lot and they will be taken care of."
The nursery, which is part of a chain, has been in this location since the 1960s, Goria said. Before it was a nursery, the building used to house a Woolworth Garden Center in the 1960s.
There are seven Summer Winds Nursery locations in Santa Clara County, including the one in San Jose.