EAST ST. LOUIS, ILL. - An East St. Louis family is vowing to rebuild, after flames burned through the walls of their family-owned business, destroying the businesses' inventory.
Diamond Classic Tires Inc. has been in business since 1972. It’s owner, Lawanda Carraway, inherited the business from her parents.
“This is the office I grew up in,” Carraway explained as she walked around the perimeter of the property. Carraway worked alongside her mom, Annie Carraway, who eventually took over ownership of the business.
"She had this even before I was born,” Lawanda Carraway explained. “So, when I was a baby, I went to all the banks with her, all the people who had different tire shops."
After both of her parents passed away, Carraway took over the business 10 years ago.
"My favorite memories are when I was selling rims,” remembered Carraway.
The tire shop along State Street in East St. Louis has also been a popular hangout spot.
“Everybody still stops by, whether they are purchasing, whether they are visiting, whether they haven’t visited for a long time.”
One Thursday, a 12-hour-long fire ripped through the walls of the building, now a complete loss. While Carraway’s insurance does not cover the damages, she is looking into several different options, including city grants, business loans and has also started a GoFundMe account.
She says when she looks at her building: “What I see is potential to get us a new building, potential to make something better than it was before, potential to grow a little more."
Carraway sees the potential to pass the torch on to the third generation.
“I’ve had my 13-year-old work here. I've had my 15-year-old work here,” she said. “So, basically I'm training them to take over after I retire."
So, even if the building doesn’t look exactly the same as it did before the blaze, Carraway says she is going to follow her vision.
"I see a brand new start," she said.
There is no word yet on what may have caused the fire. The state fire marshal is investigating.
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