Mrs. Mitchell's could rise from ashes

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Family hopes to rebuild,
reopen shop in 2011

By Patrick Cronin

Seacoast Sunday, Sunday, March 7, 2010

[The following article is courtesy of the Seacoast Sunday and Seacoast Online.]
Bob Mitchell of Mrs. Mitchell's Country Shop, stands in the charred remains of his family's shop
[Scott Yates courtesy photo]
"We may have lost our business, but it could have been much worse. We could have lost the entire beach."
Bob Mitchell,
owner of Mrs. Mitchell's Country Shop, on the efforts of area firefighters.

When Bob Mitchell looks at the charred remains of Mrs. Mitchell's Country Shop at Hampton Beach, he gets emotional. He not only lost a business that has been in his family for 40 years but also their home away from home during the summer.

"It's devastating," said Mitchell. "We have been here for 44 years and there was a lot of good memories in that place."

More than 160 firefighters from three states battled the fire early on the morning of Feb. 26 at the Surf Hotel on Ocean Boulevard. Five businesses were destroyed.

Mitchell spent last week sifting through the rubble, dealing with insurance companies and beginning the long process he hopes will eventually lead to rebuilding his shop on Ocean Boulevard.

Three generations of family members, he said, worked in the gift shop that was opened by his grandparents Freda and George Mitchell in 1966.

"We want to get back what we lost," Mitchell said. "That is our main objective right now. Our hopes is to reopen Mrs. Mitchell's."

Mitchell said the one positive to come through the tragedy is the support he has received from the town's building, fire and police departments.

Longtime customers have also been e-mailing and their Facebook page has been filled with messages of support.

"It's a good feeling to know that you have the support of everyone," said Mitchell.

Mitchell said town officials have helped him and his family immensely.

"It tough. when you arrive and see that your place burned down," Mitchell said. You don't know where to start and they have guided us and are helping us get through it."

When he looks at the devastation, he can't also help but thank the firefighters for all their hard work.

"We may have lost our business but it could have been much worse," said Mitchell. "We could have lost the entire beach."

Mitchell, who was vacationing in Vermont when he received the call about the fire, said he was glad firefighters were able to contain the fire, especially in the midst of 95 mph winds.

"I gave a few of the firefighters a handshake and thanked them," he said. "I wish I could do more. They did an outstanding job."

While the building is a total loss, Mitchell said they hope to salvage a few items inside the store.

One of the items that people have asked about is whether Edgar the Troll survived the fire.

The large display troll was singed in the fire, but Mitchell said his sister hopes to fix it.

Mitchell said they have been selling miniature trolls more than 22 years after his father discovered them while on a trip in Tennessee.

A shark head that was also a well-known feature of the shop was untouched by the fire.

"We are hoping there are a few other pieces we may be able to salvage. When we rebuild, we hope to put the few items we salvage inside the new store for nostalgia," he said.

Mitchell said their goal is to clean up the site for the summer and start rebuilding in the fall with hope of reopening in 2011.

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