GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

August 29, 2013

Despite fire, restaurateurs will move ahead

By Jonathan Phelps
Staff writer

---- — IPSWICH — Essex restaurateurs saw immediate plans for a Mexican eatery go up in smoke, but say they will move ahead.

A fire early Friday morning at Stone Soup Cafe, 141 High St. (Route 133) in Ipswich, appears to have been sparked by faulty wiring, fire officials said this week.

Stone Soup was scheduled to close for business this past Sunday, and the owners of The Farm Bar & Grille in Essex planned to open an upscale Mexican restaurant under a different name by late October.

“We will definitely go forward with our plans,” said Ryan Cox, a co-owner of The Farm. “Obviously, it will slow our timeline down a little.”

Ipswich Fire Lt. Jeffrey French said the fire is not being considered suspicious.

“It appears to be electrical in nature,” he said, noting faulty wiring in the building’s decorative lighthouse and soffit overhang where the fire started.

The fire remains under investigation by Ipswich fire and police and the state fire marshal.

“They are trying to determine what was live and what wasn’t,” French said. “There was old wire up there that they were looking into near where the fire started.”

According to online records, the building is owned by Christopher Pescione, who owned Marco Polo, the restaurant formerly at the site. The building was built in 1958 and is assessed at $767,900.

Cox said The Farm owners have been in touch with Pescione about construction at the site and how it might affect their plans.

Cox said the owners, who also The Farm restaurants in Beverly and Dover, N.H., are still working on how to best move forward after the unexpected fire.

The fire broke out about 3:48 a.m. Friday and drew firefighters from Topsfield, Hamilton and Rowley, as well as Ipswich — about 30 firefighters in all.

The lighthouse part of building, where much of the fire was raging, collapsed during the blaze, just moments after Ipswich fire Lt. Sean Cronin pulled two of his colleagues away from the building. The building was otherwise unoccupied during the collapse; no injuries were reported.

Some of the flames spread to the ceiling but were stopped by firefighters, French said. Damage to the building is estimated at $50,000.

Jonathan Phelps may be contacted at jphelps@gloucestertimes.com.