“There will be another Ferguson’s. Michael wants to go on, that’s the main thing,” Tim Ferguson said after a fire heavily damaged the restaurant that has been a fixture in St. Pauls since the late 1940’s.
The fire began after closing for the day just after noon Saturday, apparently caused by a pot left on the stove, according to Evans Jackson, Chief of the SP Fire Department. A neighbor spotted the smoke coming from the restaurant and called 911 about 6:50 p.m., and within two minutes multiple units from the St. Pauls and Big Marsh Fire Departments were on the scene. Several trucks and some members of the departments were downtown for the Night Out, so response time was even faster than usual and that immediate response prevented further damage. But even with that quick response and excellent, coordinated firefighter work between the two departments, damage was initially estimated by Jackson from between $90,000 to $100,000.
The wall behind the grill area and the kitchen equipment were heavily damaged by fire, with the remainder of the building suffering extensive smoke and heat damage. Two of the first firefighters on the scene were overcome by the intense heat but did not require medical attention.
“The Ferguson family is extremely grateful to and so proud of our fire departments and our police department and all the others who jumped in to help,” Ferguson said. “St. Pauls is really a very special place because of the dedicated and caring people who live here. We cannot say thank you enough.”
He said that although the decision to open again has been made, the when where and how of doing so cannot be made until all the estimates come in and all the equipment and the building are inspected.
“At this point, there’s a good chance we’ll go right back where we are, but everything depends on what is not yet known. Decisions will be made in the future only after we get a chance to look at everything and hear from officials and others.”
Ferguson’s has been a fixture in the life of St. Pauls since Dewey and Nell Ferguson took over operation of E. Z. Musselwhite’s store while he served in WWII. When he returned from duty in early 1949, he assumed operations and the Fergusons decided to start their own store by building onto the front of their then First Street home in mid 1949.
It began as a grocery and meat store, but also included a small sandwich shop with three booths and a counter. The business then expanded in 1950 to include operation of a commissary at Burlington Mills’ Robeson Plant, where snacks and some hot food were sold and served to employees.
In 1953, R. B. Minges approached the Fergusons about adding vending machines and four Coca-Cola and five cracker machines were added, one drink machine in the Butler Plant and the other three in the Robeson Plant. Within another year, the Fergusons had added the St. Pauls Plant to its concession business.
Eventually, a Trailways Bus station and a Western Union office would be located at Ferguson’s, but the family closed these operations out by 1968, and concentrated on the food business. By 1975, Ferguson’s was a sandwich shop/restaurant. It has remained popular, becoming famous for its Fergie Burgers, foot long hot dogs, and roast pork sandwiches and its SPHS Bulldog spirit.
Asked about the future of Ferguson’s, Tim Ferguson answered with one word: “Excellent!”