Giant fire claims longtime antiques mall along Richmond Highway

Fairfax County, Va. -- Whether it was the antique furniture or jewelry or coins-- there were plenty of reasons for longtime Northern Virginians to visit the Mount Vernon Antique Center.

Some of those loyal visitors made their way to the indoor mall Tuesday not to buy anything but to look at the destruction caused by a 2-alarm fire that began sometime after 9 p.m. on the night of Christmas.

There were no reports of injury as the business was closed at the time of the fire.

Fairfax County Fire and Rescue have begun an investigation into what caused the blaze but a fire marshal on scene said investigators have a lot of work to do before releasing official word on what sparked it.

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The store was home to several dozen small businesses which were each set up with their own small section of the approximate 15,000 square foot of retail space.

Fairfax County property records still list the property name as Thieves Market, a name mentioned by some of the visitors to mall.

"I had no idea it was going to be this bad," said Ann Smolinski, who swung by the store with her husband to take a look at the damage.

The fire burned through the roof of the back end of the building. Bob said he had recently been in that section the other day getting his computer repaired.

The Smolinskis said they hadn't heard about the fire until a friend in Delaware mentioned that they had seen video of the fire on the news there and sent them a note. Those friends remembered the store from their visits when they had lived in the DMV.

"This was a last of it's kind," said Jad Ibrahim, whose father Eddie had an upholstery business in the building years ago and had recently considered taking up space again. "This is kind of like an archive place; this is like history."

Fans of the store remember giant rugs, chandeliers, memorabilia from the 1960s and 70s. Some said it was a great place for a unique gift or just to get lost in time.

"It's such a shame for everyone who shops here and all the people who had their individual booths in there," said Ralph Baker. "This is bad, it's a shame."

Efforts to reach out to the property owner (who is based in Dumfries) were unsuccessful.