UNITY, Maine — Just three weeks after fast-moving fire reduced the Amish Community Market and Bakery to a heap of smoldering, charred metal and ash, workers were fitting insulation along the walls of the cavernous new structure being built in its place.
On Thursday, a crew of around 30 Amish men worked together to rebuild the store, which had had its roof installed the day before.
No doubt about it, the Unity Amish community knows how to get things done fast. But even some community members seemed surprised and pleased by the speed of the work.
“It’s amazing,” Owen Yoder, an Amish man who works in the nearby metal roofing business, said.
The community market is important, both within the tight-knit Waldo County Amish community — which has between 150 and 200 people — and outside it. People come from miles away for the fresh-baked doughnuts and homemade bread, as well as to shop in the hardware portion of the store.
Many sent monetary donations to help owner Caleb Stoll move forward to rebuild the store. Stoll, who did not have insurance on the building, said last month that the Amish generally help each other out with expenses. But he did not expect non-Amish people to contribute, too. The outpouring of support he received after the fire meant a lot to him and others in his community.
“People are being very, very helpful,” he said in late January. “I don’t have a way to adequately thank the people who have responded.”
It didn’t take long for Stoll to get a permit from the town to rebuild the store on the same footprint. On Wednesday night, he received additional permits to build two attached outbuildings, Charles Porter, the Unity code enforcement officer, confirmed Thursday. Those will be a lean-to for the bakery and the ice house, Yoder said.
The financial donations helped make it possible to buy building materials at a time when prices remain higher than they had been, Amish community members said.
“I’m very thankful,” Yoder said, adding that Stoll is still striving to reopen the store in May.
Some people came from far away to join the rebuilding effort, including Steven Zook of Marion, Michigan. He is part of an Amish community there that has ties to the Waldo County community, and he and some friends arrived in Maine on Monday. It was his first visit to the Pine Tree State.
“I like it,” he said, while taking a short break from preparing for the store’s skylights. “It’s definitely more of a backwoods, laid-back area, and I appreciate that.”
Inside the structure, men wearing straw or knit hats and plain blue work clothes nimbly climbed up scaffolding to put the metal ceiling in place. Others rushed ladders and big plastic bags of insulation around the space. Some used compressed air tools, which are allowed in this Amish community, Yoder said.
All ages were represented, from a child who looked just big enough to hold up his tool belt, to white-bearded elders. Aaron Fisher, 16, worked at the store before it burned down and was glad to help rebuild it. All the activity and bustle had him beaming.
“I think it’s great,” he said of the community effort.
Todd Garnett of Knox is not a member of the Amish community, but has been glad to do what he can to assist in the rebuilding process. He stopped by to check out the progress that was being made.
“No matter who it is, it’s a hard hit,” he said of the fire. “Everybody’s got to work together.”