A fire in West Hancock County destroyed the only grocery store in the Pearlington community.
Ronnie Cuevas watched helplessly as fire engulfed Cuevas Grocery Store - the business that bears his family name.
"This is devastating for our family this has been part of our lives for almost 20 years now."
The fire was reported around 9:30 Thursday night. Firefighters from as far away as Louisiana worked to save the store, but by midnight, all was lost. Hours later, smoke still billowed from the charred shell on Highway 604.
Cuevas grocery served as a Pearlington hub - the only grocery store in this small community.
"They're such a fixture in the community. It's a place where you go and find out what's going on, a lot of people chit chat and hang around there," Pearlington Resident Dawn Brenegan said.
Brenegan lives and works in Pearlington.
"They've got a great deli I know my co-workers and I will sadly miss being gone, because we eat lunch there on a routine basis."
For others it means a 20 to 25 minute drive to buy their groceries.
"Apparently I'm going to have to go to either Slidell or to Waveland to get what I need, because we don't have anything else here. This is the only store that we really had," Pearlington Resident Jeanine Glover said.
This store was built in 1952. The Cuevas family took it over in 1985, but folks who know the history of the area say a store has sat in this location ever since the early 1900's.
Cuevas say the damage can be replaced, but he worries about his seven employees, who are now out of work just before Christmas.
"My wife and the community have to sit down and discuss it and certainly will do what's best for the family and the community," Cuevas said.
No one was in the store when the fire started. It had closed about a half hour earlier. As for the cause, investigators are just beginning to search for clues.